And so does the Chavista movement — like the tree, from the inside out. Reuters’ Alexandra Ulmer crafts a dead-perfect look at the disastrous outcomes from Hugo Chavez’ embrace of Castro-style communism in Venezuela, and the potential reckoning Chavez’ family and political heirs may face in less than two weeks. She starts with an orange tree planted by Chavez himself in honor of his own revolution, and how it has turned as sickly as his nation:
Just like its botanical namesake, the movement Chavez called “The Beautiful Revolution” is ailing ahead of Dec. 6 legislative elections – including in Sabaneta, his sleepy hometown in Venezuela’s agricultural heartland.
Over a decade of increasingly dysfunctional state controls and the end of an oil bonanza have triggered one of the OPEC nation’s most severe economic crises.
Just blocks from where Chavez grew up and sold his grandmother’s papaya sweets to make ends meet, Venezuelans now line up for hours hoping a truck will make its way across the palm tree-sprinkled flatlands to deliver scarce rice or toilet paper.
Rampant inflation and the near-collapse of the bolivar currency have destroyed salaries, while violent crime leads many to barricade themselves inside when the region’s vast sky turns dark.
The destruction of the once-vibrant Venezuelan economy has served as a warning to its neighbors. Argentinians booted the Peronists from power last week, along with their Chavez-lite economic policies, in favor of free-market-friendly Mauricio Macri. Macri pledged during his campaign to end nationalizations, bring back foreign investors, and return to a pro-Western foreign policy, which won him a seven-point victory over the Kirchner machine. The Chavistas in Venezuela reacted … poorly:
If that seems a little like overcompensation, well, read the rest of Ulmer’s article. The Chavistas are politically vulnerable, and without Chavez himself, they are being exposed as corrupt. In order to deal with the popular unrest that Chavez’ policies have wrought, the Chavistas are renaming everything in sight for Chavez in an attempt to exhume his political corpse and put it on the campaign trail. So far, though, that doesn’t appear to be working, and they are clearly frightened that Venezuelans will make the same choice that Argentinians did last week. That is, if the Chavistas allow them to make that choice, which still remains to be seen.
Ulmer returns to the diseased tree Chavez planted at the end of the article, for a final ironic coup de grace:
Chavez’s kin might need a miracle – as does his tree named ‘revolution’.
“We’ve asked for help, poison for the infestation, and things like that,” said Hidalgo in the backyard where Chavez once played marbles and ate mangoes. “But they haven’t sent anything.”
There is nothing to send. Welcome to the end state of what happens when you run out of other people’s money.