One morning October last year two agents from the Venezuelan presidency cabinet left on a special mission from the Miraflores Palace (seat of the Executive). They headed a few blocks away to the Central Bank to pick up five million dollars cash, expenses-money for the coming international tour of President Chavez to Moscow, Kiev, Teheran, Damascus and Tripoli.
What followed is described by the Association of Latin American newspapers, GDA, as a true “Bolivarian mystery”. In the short distance between the central bank and the government palace the two agents and the five million dollars disappeared.
Nevertheless Chavez sent for another five million dollars and took off with his presidential Airbus (70 million dollars) which costs 30.000 dollars per hour to fly, for the ten day trip that included 90 people between security, doctors and chefs, and the half a million dollars per day expenses for the ten-day trip.
GDA argues that Chavez has become a ruler of expensive habits for a country of 27 million which depend on oil exports, imports most of what it consumes (85%), has record inflation for the region (30%) and regularly is forced to ration water, power and food.
After twelve years in office, legitimately elected, Chavez is trying to defeat cancer and conquer a fourth mandate in 2012. He preaches and promises Socialism almost daily, but is unable to guarantee government markets with sufficient staples. Although total volumes are imported, a high percentage has to be destroyed because of distribution problems and lack of conservation capacity.
However, in Miraflores contrast prevails. Chavez increased the presidential cabinet appropriation five fold to 794 million dollars in 2011, according to Transparency Venezuela and accountants offices from the opposition.
The opulence of budget numbers for presidential expenses is clear evidence of Chavez inclination for handing out gifts plus cronyism and political clientele. Of each 10 dollars from the cabinet budget, 7 go to social projects which he conducts personally. The remaining funds finance 10.4 million dollars in parties, food, beverage and “social relations’; 329.000 dollars in clothing and shoes; 151.000 in boudoir; 408.000 in laundry and 9.5 million in the upkeep of residences.
“Chavez preaches Socialism but spends as a rich capitalist” points out Venezuelan Transparency VT. Government numbers are opaque with a routine of parallel budgets. The official info on the origin of funds is rare and particularly scarce the presentation of expense bills, mainly from presidential expenditure, adds VT.
Chavez tends to repeat that all what matters is saving the Bolivarian revolution ‘even if we don’t have what to eat, all the rest is secondary’. For the revolution Chavez has spent 23 billion dollars in taking over corporations and creating new companies.
But the productive model does not take off and simply because of inefficiency, according to a report on 16 Socialized companies written by economists Richard Obuchi, Anabela Abadi and Bárbara Liraem.
A case in question is Venirauto, created by Venezuela and Iran in 2006 to assemble 10.000 vehicles annually, but so far in five years only 2.017 cars have rolled out.
Los Andes was the country’s main processor of milk and diary produce until Socialized. Now it is working at 20% capacity.
This production model demands growing subsidies. The Sucre Sugar Centre works at a cost of one dollar per kilo but must sell it in government markets at 25 US cents. The Treasury allegedly would finance the rest.
The whole irony of the Bolivarian revolution is that the Venezuela of Chavez is ever more dependent on the US. In 2010 it purchased 26 billion dollars, mostly food, and purchases are estimated to increase another 20% this year.
GDA claims the Venezuelan budget is pure fiction. Chavez annually approves a budget to promote Bolivarian Socialism and renews a written promise to lead the 27 million Venezuelans to ‘paradise’.
In paper the ministries from Popular Power only invest to “Build Supreme Happiness and a new Socialist ethics”, 26.7%; “Strengthening Revolutionary Democracy” 15.5% and “Building a new geopolitics”, 10.1%.
With opinion polls supporting him Chavez says he is back for the presidential campaign, which will be ‘tough’ but he will win ‘from start to end’.
“We can’t say we’ve won but we are taking off with a clear lead”.
“I want to live and to be each day more useful to my people and that is why I’m preparing for the 2012 battle which is going to be nice and good because we are going to decide this new decade”, said Chavez addressing the Bolivarian Socialist youth.