Monday, March 18, 2013


The stakes have gotten high for Cuba in the April 14 Venezuelan election to replace the deceased socialist president, Hugo Chávez. The opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles announced today to university students in the state of Zulia, that if he were elected, “not a single drop of more oil will go to the government of Raúl Castro."

Europa Press reported Capriles stated that Nicolás Maduro is the “candidate of Raúl Castro." He went on to say that "Nicolás knows that he will not solve any problem, is pure bullshit.” Despite the grammatical nonsense of this statement, I couldn’t help but think how often an American presidential contender might like to publicly use profanity in this way to grab attention away from his opposition. Having read this Europa Press report, it was interesting to compare the text of the same speech as it appeared in the Miami Herald, which politely declined to use the vulgarity. The Spanish word paja (bullshit) in its root meaning is hay; the vulgar version of it is masturbation. However, in Venezuela, in this context, it means bullshit. The language used gives the sense of how heated this election is becoming.

The electioneering is also spawning promises that Capriles cannot possibly deliver in any sane world. His solution to the grinding poverty is to raise the minimum wage by 40%. I'm reminded of a thought expressed by my son, Max, when he was eight years old, that poor people wouldn't be poor if they were given debit cards. Now Max is 23 and surely has learned that a debit card is not an inexhaustible source of money. Neither is oil.

The point of this is, that no matter who wins, the likelihood is that Venezuela’s oil-based economy, with its infrastructure in collapse, will likely tumble into an abyss, like Cuba’s, before there is any real hope for market reform. The Castros must be a little nervous about their lifeline, but assured by the latest polls that put Maduro ahead by 14%.

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