Vice-President Aristobulo Isturiz made a number of surprisingly candid comments in an interview that aired on Jose Vicente Rangel’s Televen show earlier today.
While Isturiz blamed many of the country’s problems on the so-called “economic war”, he oscillated between the usual culprits the PSUV blamed and admitting that the Venezuelan government has had some failures. Isturiz singled out the fact that the Venezuelan government was unable to keep long lines, scarcity and inflation under control even though it may have had the chance to.
Isturiz: … to jump-start production. We’re having problems because we don’t have foreign currency; we don’t have the same amount of foreign currency that we once did. We have to produce foreign currency, so we have to think about production and, as a fundamental element, the substituting of imports. We have to think about our abilities — we have to trust Venezuelans, and we all have to unite. Some have these resources, others have other resources, and we have to think about how to come together to jump-start the productive economy. This will require, as you’ve said, dialogue and conversation. It’s true that there’s distrust and people don’t have confidence, but it’s true that there are always difficulties. This isn’t easy. It’s not like we’re going to say “dialogue!”, and everyone will suddenly jump on board.
Rangel: What role does the opposition play within that context, after December 6 — what do you make of December 6?
Isturiz: Look, Jose Vicente — I think that people – even after all of our conquests and achievements — the psychological impact of the economic war played a role. The lines, the fact that we as the government were not able to get rid of those lines at that time, that we were not able to stand up to hoarding. People said, “There’s hoarding going on!”, so if you’re the government, why don’t you get rid of it? The lines, inflation — all of these elements that come from — for example, not everyone understands that the beating our currency is taking doesn’t depend on us, but rather on elements that we do not control. The drop in oil prices is something that we can’t control; in fact, the market doesn’t even control that. All of this played a role.
There’s real inflation, and there’s induced inflation. There’s a real level of scarcity, and there’s induced scarcity, which is a component of the economic war to make things worse, and this had an effect on people. So, lines, inflation, scarcity, bachaqueo [speculation]; we did not have the ability to eliminate these things at that moment, Then, we have to —
Rangel: Why were you unable to eliminate them, if the government had so much power?
Isturiz: There are factors that don’t depend on us. Look, Jose Vicente — do you think that the oil prices, they don’t even depend on the market?
Rangel: Well, what about keeping supermarkets stocked, for example?
Isturiz: Well, to keep them full you need to have an income, right? So when you talk about a drop in oil prices, you’re talking about a drop in foreign currency. This is a country that does not produce, and has to buy everything from abroad.
Rangel We used to have lots of foreign currency to buy food —
Isturiz: — in this country, the distribution networks and the food distribution networks have never been in the people’s hands. The government doesn’t have control of it, either. Starting from the [unintelligible] company in the colony to Polar today, they [private industry] have had control of food distribution. They used food distribution networks as a political tool to make people get upset and make them react. We never had control over that, right? So this is one of the struggles we’ll have to fight. We have to have distribution networks that are fair. Fair production, distribution and retail: that’s what we need to build. Let’s all build it together, because the state can’t do it alone. If there are people with experience, with initiative, and they’re working on projects…
Isturiz also refuted opposition statements that the now defunct economic emergency decree was “more of the same”, saying that the document was founded on a recognition that the rentier system had failed. Based on that recognition, Isturiz said that the decree sought to:
… propose a new economic model that is productive and also at the same time protects the people.
Socialism Hasn’t Failed Because “We Haven’t Built It”
Isturiz also made some controversial statements regarding the nature of the Venezuelan state, saying that the difficulties the country is going through are not reflective of a failure of socialism. Isturiz said:
Some compatriots from the opposition side have insisted that the socialist economic model has failed. No: we haven’t built socialism. What has failed here is the rentier model.
Isturiz followed his comment by hailing Chavez’s focus on redistributing wealth in Venezuela and helping the poor, although he was careful to stress that this does not mean that Venezuela is or ever has been a socialist country:
Venezuela has free education and free healthcare. In other words, those achievements have everything to do with the way that [oil] rents were distributed, but the economy did not undergo a structural change.
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