Following Maduro’s speech before the National Assembly yesterday in which he announced a handful of changes to the country’s economy, Venezuelans awoke today with more questions than answers.
The president of FEDECAMARAS (the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce) Jorge Roig, called on the government to clearly the measures announced – but not explained – last night.
Ronald Blaza, an economics professor at the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, said that Maduro’s announcements last night are too little too late, and that the crisis in Venezuela is likely to worsen:
If we keep going the way we’re going we will see the fall of our economy. More inflation, more scarcity.
Luis Vicente Leon, an economics professor at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administracion (IESA) also spoke on Maduro’s speech, arguing that the most important measures were the ones that Maduro didn’t announce last night. Leon criticized Maduro for not explaining how Venezuela will make up the loss of income that comes with the slashing of oil prices by more than half since last June.
Leon also said that the night’s best announcement was the unification of the SICAD I and SICAD II exchange systems, as well as the apparent legalization of what has so far been black market trading for dollars. Leon qualified the announcement as a sign of “flexibility”, though he did stress that he also believed that it was not enough to avert the crisis.
Up until now, Venezuelans often bought U.S. dollars not through the official channels, but rather through the black market, the so-called mercado paralelo. Leon qualified the government’s recognition of the mercado paralelo as “a very important devaluation”, saying:
Through this devaluation, [the government] is looking to reduce the fiscal deficit, lower the necessity for monetary financing from the Banco Central de Venezuela to PDVSA and to reduce imports, but now it has to announce how it’s going to promote production or imports.
One more thing about Maduro’s speech.
Maduro made more than a few assertions during his three hour long speech last night. Some of these assertions were more outrageous than others, and a few were so ridiculous that even a superficial examination of them can prove that they were nothing more than malicious lies meant to deceive Venezuelans.
Towards the end of his speech, Maduro said that the people lined up outside supermarkets across the country were agents paid by “mafias”. This is keeping with the PSUV line that the line ups are not a sign of scarcity, but rather another tactic in the “economic” and “psychological war” against Venezuela. Maduro said that he knows these people are paid agents because the police captured one such individual who admitted to being paid to go to supermarkets “300 times in one week”.
Grade 5 math will tell us that Maduro is lying.
Let us assume this so-called mafia agent spent one hour going to, lining up at, shopping in, and coming back from supermarkets. This is an extremely conservative estimate, since supermarket line ups can grow to include hundreds of people and become multi-hour ordeals. To give you an example of how obscene these lines can grow to be, here’s a video showing lines outside various supermarkets in Caracas last week:
Using this conservative estimate, we can find how many hours the agent spent in line/in the process of visiting different supermarkets:
300 trips to the supermarket x 1 hour per visit = 300 hours
Using grade 5 math again, we can find out how many days are in 300 hours by diving this number by 24, the number of hours in one day:
300 hours / 24 hours in a day = 12.5 days
Therefore, we can deduce that based on Maduro’s assertion before the National Assembly that the supposed mafia agent spent a total of 12.5 days in a 7 day period carrying out his covert destabilization duties.
In other words, Maduro lied.
I suspect that if pressed about it, Maduro would say that he didn’t literally mean the man went to supermarkets 300 times, and that he didn’t literally mean he did so in one week. Maduro slithered his way out of a lie during the same speech last night when he said:
Before, I said that we didn’t need the money that increased gas prices would bring. Of course, this was an exaggeration. It was a pedagogical exaggeration. Of course we need the money.
I also suspect that Maduro will not be pressed to explain his comment, and so it has the effect of being considered a truth because it was spoken as if it were true.
I wonder how many other “pedagogical exaggerations” Maduro slipped into his speech last night?
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