Everybody’s crazy about a sharp dressed man

I watched a video yesterday of Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela, looking markedly (and typically) unpresidential.  He was essentially threatening the people of Venezuela that he would not respect the outcome if they dared to vote in the opposition.  And he did it in his usual Adidas track suit (I wonder what Adidas thinks of this–have they considered paying him not to wear their clothes?)

Here’s a still from the video:

tracksuit_recentI particularly like the Nicolas M. embroidered on the suit.  Are his track suits regularly stolen from his presidential suite.  One would think so given the amount of times he wears such gear with his name clearly spelled out.  Here is another and it gets very specific, just in case some other Nicolas Maduro fellow tries to claim it for his own:

tracksuit_4

Here’s one that helpfully provides the name of his country, as if anyone could forget:

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during a visit to inspect the progress of a subway construction in Guatire

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during a visit to inspect the progress of a subway construction in Guatir November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Marco Bello

 

And a track suit is de rigueur when attending a communist summit:

tracksuit_cuba

And surprisingly, Maduro is not the man wearing the red track suit in this photo!  No wonder he doesn’t want to go anywhere without the suit!  He gets attacked by fellow fashionistas when he doesn’t:

tracksuit_attack

OK, enough snark for the day, or at least the morning.  Maduro is an easy target to poke fun at but it would be a lot funnier of course if he wasn’t also inciting violence and destroying the country.

 

A pox on both your houses

So the “world’s greatest deliberative body” has passed a sanctions bill against Venezuela for human rights violations during the previous election campaign there?

Really?

Really?

And this is in the lame duck session before the Republicans even take over?

After Ferguson and Staten Island, the Feds decide to act against……Venezuela?

Really?

Then of course there’s President Knuckles’ response: “We don’t accept insolent imperialist sanctions”

Ummm, Knucky? That’s not quite how it works, pumpkin.

How sanctions become law, Knuckles Maduro edition: 1. passes both houses of congress. 2. signed by the president. 3 goes to the intended sanctionee for a referendum.

Since Venezuela needs to sell us their crappy low quality oil more than we need to buy it right now, I’m guessing the sanctions will happen, Knuckles will make some political hay, and everything else will be business as usual.

Glad to see the Feds send such a strong message against state sanctioned violence against unarmed citizens though.

Our government makes me sick.

6 degrees of Hugo

A recent article in Reuters talks about a new college course offered in Venezuela called “Studies of the Thoughts of the Supreme Commander Hugo Chavez.”  It was created by the military and so far more than 10,000 students have enrolled.  There are so many howlers in the article (even the name of the class is awesome) that I decided to just list my favorites:

1. “Students rise to their feet as a uniformed Venezuelan brigadier-general enters a large classroom at a Caracas military institute and proclaims: ‘Chavez lives!’ In unison, they reply: ‘The fight goes on!'”  Of course they do!  This seems appropriate for a college class.

2. “The course, which can form part of a degree or post-graduate studies, traces Chavez’s philosophical roots.”  And this is part of a degree or post-graduate studies?  Check out the incredible rigor of the course provided by this description: “The class analyzes Chavez’s boyhood in a rural shack, his love of baseball, his years in the military and failed coup attempt, the election victory that brought him to power, and the 1999-2013 presidency” 

or this (unintentionally hysterical) description by this student:Victor Flores, a military colonel, said he specially enjoyed learning personal anecdotes he had not heard before – about Chavez’s grandmother Rosa Ines, and another distant relative and revolutionary known as Maisanta.”

3. “‘At all times, he [Chavez] sought to imitate Christ in his actions,'” said Nerio Galban, secretary of the Bolivarian Military University of Venezuela where the course originated. Galban likened the Biblical story of Jesus feeding the five thousand to Chavez’s subsidized food programs. He compared Jesus’ healing of the sick to the “Miracle Mission” set up in 2004.”  Kevin says at this point Hugo has only miracle left in his bag! 

Orwell in Venezuela

The news out of Venezuela would be a lot funnier if it weren’t so tragic.  In honor of the late President Chavez, Maduro has decided to create a new cabinet post called the Minister of Supreme happiness.  So what will said minister do?  Apparently he or she will  “serve the elderly, children, people with disabilities, and the homeless.”

The always excellent Fausta writes that “the minister will begin imposing cheer on December 9, in time to coincide with the first ever “Loyalty and Love to Hugo Chavez Day” and notes that  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called the agency a “social advance in the struggle against the perfidy of capitalism.”

Wow, you really can’t make this s**t up!

Apparently the Earth Institute ranked Venezuela as the happiest country in South America (and 20th worldwide) in 2013.  Given that the country faces constant shortages of toilet paper, food, and feminine pads, it makes me wonder about EI’s survey methodology or worry about the mental state of the rest of South America.

Fausta also reports that the new ministry will be headed up by a military officer, as is the “office of Sovereign People, the Superior Office for the Defense of the Economy, and the Strategic Superior Centre for Homeland Security and Protection.”

Carts & Horses

According to Quartz.com, hyperinflation in Venezuela is “forcing” the country to “print hundreds of millions of extra banknotes”.

Yikes!

“The more expensive things get in Venezuela, the more 100 bolivar bills Venezuelans are forced to carry in their pockets.”

High inflation is usually, at a deep level, caused  by fiscal failure. For example, countries at war that cannot finance expenditures with taxes or borrowing resort to printing money.

But the proximate cause of the high inflation is the money printing. It’s charmingly naive to see the argument reversed.

The article also refers to 45% annual inflation as “well above much feared hyperinflation levels”.

The common definition of hyperinflation in economics is an inflation rate that is above 50% per month for a sustained period of time. That would be an annualized inflation rate of over 500%.

Venezuela has an inflation problem, which I believe to be caused by a governance problem, but it’s still pretty far away from a hyperinflation episode

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Just like Christ multiplied the penises”

The President of Venezuela has been at it again.  Not only is the economy tanking, but Maduro’s continual gaffes make him an object of ridicule.

The Latin Times reports that the President, already looking very presidential  in an “Adidas track suit in the bright red, blue and yellow colors of the Venezuelan flag” committed a Freudian slip recently when he “made allusion to the Biblical miracle of the seven loaves and fish, but said “penes”, meaning “penises” instead of “peces” (or fish).”   Somehow he made this slip when he was discussing education.  Specifically, the stated that “We need to go in school by school, student by student, high school by high school, community by community, get in there, multiply ourselves, just like Christ multiplied the penises – “, realizing his mistake, he paused to correct himself, ” – pardon me, the fishes and the loaves. Pardon the expression. Just like Christ multiplied the loaves and the fish.”

Here’s the video if you want to see Maduro in all his patriotic glory.

That isn’t all though folks, because last week he also said the government would give “children 35 million “books and pounds” (“libros y libras”) for Monday’s return to school” and this week he fell off his bike while leading a large procession of people.

The best part of all this though is Maduro’s response.  He acted like this was all part of his master plan.  Here is his great comeback:

“The right wing is stupid. As they want to censure the historic fact that we are going to give 35 million books to the boys and girls of Venezuela … I left them a little trap, and some fell for it,” he told supporters. “Some of the most stupid ones put the video on Twitter. Great! Because they show where I say we’re giving away 35 million books. At least people see it. If they hide things due to hatred of the fatherland, I’m obliged to find other ways.”

Maduro the Grinch?

We’ve recently discussed how Chavez’s golden touch has eluded Maduro, leaving Venezuela short on international reserves. When you add the fact that  they are trying to peg a currency that the black market values at 30 Bolivars to the dollar at 6.3 Bolivars to the dollar, foreign exchange to fund imports is very tight (we’ve also discussed rationing of basic items in Venezuela).

Now comes word that there’s no forex to import toys for the Christmas season. Why worry about Christmas in July? Well apparently, it takes around 6 months for the ordering, manufacture in China, shipping and getting through the “country’s notoriously slow customs procedures”!

Venezuela is a real mess right now and I hope for the people (and the children!) of the country, they find a productive way forward soon.

 

 

Clean-up on aisle Chavez

Hugo Chavez. Among his many talents, we should not fail to count hedge fund manager. Starting several years ago, Hugo put “over 70 percent” of Venezuela’s foreign exchange reserves into gold and turned a 400% profit!

Since his death, this portfolio has remained gold-heavy and lost around 25%. It is claimed that Venezuela is in trouble as a result.

But, clearly a 25% loss after a 400% gain still leaves you better off than when you started doesn’t it?

Well, Hugo didn’t leave his profits in the reserve portfolio:

“The rally in the metal had enabled Chavez, who died of cancer in March, to siphon off $45.8 billion from the central bank to an off-budget development fund.”

In this, as in so many other aspects of Venezuela, Hugo’s hapless successor, (no tan) Maduro has been left holding the (emptying) bag.

All of the crazy and none of the funny

at least not intentionally…

The Wall Street Journal had an article today called Chavez’s Folksy Style Proves to Be a Tough Act to Follow (sadly gated).  In it, they talk about how Nicolás Maduro has been unable to follow in Chavez’s footsteps in terms of connecting with the public with a “folksy, often ribald, sense of humor.”   He has made a couple of stabs at humor in public rallies but they have mostly fallen flat.

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Chavez was excellent copy.  He was always good for a quote (or song, dance, joke, etc).  Maduro only seems able to be unintentionally funny.

My favorite bit of funny is when Maduro claimed that Chavez came to him in the form of a very small bird. While praying alone at a chapel, a little bird appeared and “started communicating” by whistling at him.  Here is his awesome description:

“Suddenly a bird entered, very small, and turned three times up here,” he said, pointing to his head while imitating the flutter. [The bird] stood on a wooden beam and began whistling, a nice hissing,” he said imitating the sound. “Then I stared at him and whistled back… The bird looked strange at me, right? He whistled for a little while, flew around and left, and I felt the spirit of [Chavez],” said Maduro. I felt him there as though he were giving us a blessing, saying to us: ‘Today the battle begins. Onwards to victory. You have our blessing.”

Even if you don’t speak Spanish, I think you will get a kick out of Maduro recounting the story.  Here is a link to the video from Fausta’s blog, which is definitely worth reading if you are interested in Venezuela.

There is also an awesome slide show on the little bird issue (from maspormas). Here is one of my favorites:

meme-del-pajarito-de-nicolas-maduro-4

And of course there is a lot more crazy than just this.  In a televised speech, he has claimed that the former president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, is trying to kill him: “Uribe is behind a plot to kill me. Uribe is a killer. I have enough evidence of who is conspiring, and there are sectors of the Venezuelan right that are involved.”  The current Colombian president has called Maduro “crazy.”

As Fausta points out (and Alma Guillermoprieto alludes to in her excellent article on post-Chavez machinations), “Rather than worrying about Uribe, Maduro ought to keep en eye on Diosdado, or he may get his wish sooner than he thinks.”

Of course, all of this would be a lot more funny if he wasn’t actually in charge of the country.