Venezuelan Socialism, a Nice Little Portfolio
New investment deals with the United States, Russia, China, and others could mean a future of debt for Venezuela.
I’ve tried to understand the reality in Venezuela from many points of view, and despite of my persistent criticism, I’ve always believed in that anti-hegemonic rhetoric, in the face of global powers, capital, and forms of economic and human development. Though this rhetoric contradicts the results of what has become known as the Bolivarian Revolution, it could trouble and even alarm the powers who want to maintain a global status quo based upon so-called imperialist exploitation.
- From his lonely watch post Albert Camus asked who among us has not experienced exile yet still managed to preserve a spark of fire in their soul. “We’re all alone,” Natalia Sedova cried in exile on hearing of her husband Leon Trotsky’s affair with Frida Kahlo. In his novel Night Watch, Stephen Koch follows the incestuous love affair of David and Harriet, wealthy siblings watching the world from their solitary exile. Koch’s writing, Camus’s theories, and Trotsky’s affair all come back to exile and lead me to reflect on the human condition. From my own vantage point, my Night Watch, I will reflect on my questions of exile, writing, and the human condition.
- Israel Centeno was born in 1958 in Caracas, Venezuela, and currently lives in Pittsburgh as a Writer-in-Residence with City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. He writes both novels and short stories, and also works as an editor and professor of literature. He has published nine books in Venezuela and three in Spain.
However, a lot of water has gone under the bridge, and now that a few years have passed, an unsettling thought is emerging—unsettling because it leads to true absurdity. True absurdity is born when logic is twisted, when elements that are founded on ideological, philosophical, scientific, and religious bias float like a cloud in the face of thought.
Reality has come knocking. It is the press release that usually passes under the radar during a confrontation of abstractions, during the debate of good versus evil, rich versus poor, sovereignty versus colonialism.
This reality has a name: Indebtedness, the loss of independence after having acquired an unpayable debt. The Cold War is over. Even the Chinese are openly participating in market dialectics. The anti-USA powers only differ from North America in form, and they are conscientiously dedicated to expanding their businesses. The investment giants are running out of territory. Chinese, Russian, European, and North American banks are making long-term investments.
After writing that last paragraph, my thoughts surrounding the reality in Venezuela took a new turn.
Following the last few months of civil unrest in Venezuela, replete with crime and torture, and in the midst of an unprecedented and deepening economic crisis, one of the Chavista strongmen, Finance Minister José Rafael Ramírez, on behalf of PDVSA (the state oil company), signed credit lines with Schlumberger, Weatherford, and Halliburton (having previously made arrangements with the Russian firm Rosneft and with China, by means of the Fondo Chino). You only have to read up on Halliburton to dispel all naïveté, because in doing so you’ll see names that have been condemned by left-wing parties in the US and the rest of the world. Names like Dick Cheney, for example.
The friends of capital investment have changed their clothes and their rhetoric; they are no longer parsimonious military thugs with cruel governing boards. It is new populism, often of a military character, that causes a commotion with its inflammatory discourse against the Empire and capitalism, but it is on the other end of a phone, taking calls and playing messenger. It signs the loan agreements that compromise any moderately independent future for the nation.
Venezuelan military populism has strengthened an import-based port economy that is very much subject to loans and compulsory debt.
This is a far cry from what is usually promoted in the anti-IMF ravings: Instead of reducing indebtedness to financial institutions, it has been criminally increased. In the future, no one will be able to pay, nor will they be able to suggest, any kind of re-negotiation.
It seems that, after a number of wars, the investors don’t need landings to impose the hegemony of their interests. Conflict and commotion, yes. Their investments are mid- to long-term. These days, their rhetorical enemies appear to have become their least costly and most effective allies.