Other Voices: The Devil’s Excrement, Venezuela
Certain countries pop up more than others in our discussions here, and it occurs to me that one resource we have not made much of so far is the multitude of blogs emanating from them. These may offer anything from firsthand accounts of the effects of crime and conflict, to insightful analysis of domestic political, economic and social dynamics. I’d like to highlight some of these from time to time — with the caveat that linking to a particular blog does not imply wholesale endorsement of its political leanings, etc., just an interest in what the author has to say on the kinds of topics we discuss here.
First up: The Devil’s Excrement, from Venezuela. Whence the title?
A famous Venezuelan, Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo, referred to oil as the devil’s excrement. For countries, easy wealth appears indeed to be the sure path to failure. Venezuela might be a clear example of that.
The author, it is safe to say, is not a fan of Mr Chavez. Many of his posts discuss institutional and individual corruption within the country, along with its overall political and economic ills. What drew my attention, however, was his take on Venezuela’s characterisation in the recent World Drug Report and Chavez’s response to it.
On Sunday, El Nacional (Ciudadanos page 13, by subscription) carried an article on the recent report by the United Nations on drug consumption and trafficking, which besides talking about the increase in consumption of opiates in Venezuela (page 89 of report), it says Venezuela has become the largest transit country for cocaine in the world (page 72 of report), with an estimated 40% of all cocaine shipments going through the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The first thing you notice is the reaction of the Venezuelan Government, rather than being embarrased or surprised, or simply announce a new war on drugs, they somehow reach the conclusion that this was a victory for the country, finding it positive, as the UN found “Venezuela among the top countries in seizures of cocaine shipments”. Well, it turns out that seizures in Venezuela are actually down, not up, while the percentage of cocaine trafficking that goes through the country is actually up significantly, but apparently the Colonel has little acquaintance with basic mathematical concepts.
But the most bothersome thing about this is the implications. Who watches the border for drug trafficking? Well, our illustrious military, which has been able to lobby for and purchase billions of dollars in defensive and offensive weapons, tanks, helicopters and jet fighters, but the country only has a single airplane dedicated to fighting drug trafficking and a meager seven frigates for over 1,000 Kms. of coast.
And the reason for this you may wonder? Well, I will not insult your intelligence on this, but it is quite obvious: corruption.
A very interesting voice on these issues, especially if (like me) you don’t follow Venezuela on an everyday basis.