THE ongoing mass-exodus from Venezuela clearly shows something is wrong there, said former trade minister Mariano Browne, blaming that country’s collapse on plain old poor governance. He was a panellist at a forum, Understanding Venezuela: Caribbean Perspectives on Democracy, held by the Elma Francois Institute at Cipriani Labour College, Valsayn, on Friday.
While other panellists had expressed support for the Venezuela government’s socialist outlook, Browne said Venezuela’s problems have nothing to do with ‘isms’, noting that China and Russia are today run by elites and along with the UK and US were all imperialist at some point in each of their histories.
“Money knows no politics,” Browne declared, quoting a Citibank former head.
“The difficulties in Venezuela are because of economic failures. The reality is that (the late Hugo) Chavez was populist but followed a set of policies that brought Venezuela to its knees.” It is a society that is now imploding, Browne said, due to poor economic policies.
Saying former president the late Hugo Chavez had never needed to manufacture an election, he said President Maduro is less popular than his predecessor.
“It’s not to do with socialism or capitalism but the policies we follow,” Browne reiterated. “What’s happening in Venezuela today has to do with poor planning and poor management.”
Panelist Amon Hotep sharply disagreed. He praised Chavez for trying to help the poor with healthcare, education and food distribution, adding, “The idea of a re-distribution of wealth is socialist.” Hotep said while Chavez may have had his shortcomings, he had tried to turn around a old system that had kept many people poor and had concentrated wealth within a group of people who had looted that country. He said under the law Chavez had held referenda to try to shape Venezuela. He asked how many supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido had actually ever read the Article 233 of the constitution upon which Guaido had staked his claim to power, dubiously in Hotep's view.
Browne in reply spelt out the harsh realities of today’s Venezuela, where daily oil-production had fallen from 3.5 million barrels to 850,000 barrels, contributing to a humanitarian crisis.
“Ten per cent of the population has left. Two million more will leave. Fifteen per cent will have left. It is because of poor economic performance.”
He said US sanctions are against targeted individuals, not Venezuela. Browne said despite all the rhetoric, 41 per cent of Venezuela’s oil is sold to North America. He said virtually all countries that had ever made interventions for wealth re-distribution had felt major negative consequences, including 30 million people dying in Joseph Stalin’s Russia and 60 to 90 million people dying in Chairman Mao’s China. Browne said Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA had incurred problems by being put under military control rather than being run by technocrats, and by expropriating assets from 22 foreign companies. “They are not earning foreign exchange and people are leaving.” He expected to see an increase in cases of TT nationals getting measles and mumps from Venezuelan migrants.