Pray for Chávez (Really)

Writing at the Weekly Standard, Vanessa Neumann re-emphasizes the reason why, for the sake of Venezuela’s future, you should root for Hugo Chávez to come back to see his system of governance completely destroyed by the disaster he created.  If not, there is the risk of martyrdom, because whomever is going to be the next leader of Venezuela, they are going to have a very, very tough time.

Venezuela is in trouble. The country is almost broke—and may in fact go broke when the price of crude drops below $80 a gallon. Adding to the economic woes are gasoline subsidies that enable Venezuelans to fill their fuel tanks for anywhere between 30 cents and $1, depending on whether you use the black-market or the official exchange rate. The last time the government tried to end gas subsidies was 1989—riots erupted, prompting violent military repression that resulted in Chávez’s attempted coup in 1992 against Carlos Andrés Pérez. Anger over gasoline prices brought the chavistas into power and could well force them out again.

And then there is the foreign exchange problem. Venezuela currently has a major shortage of U.S. dollars, which are vital for business, to buy raw materials and pay debts. The Venezuelan bolívar must be devalued, which will spark skyrocketing inflation and likely lead to social unrest.

With the country in limbo, there is no good way for the opposition United Democratic Movement party (MUD) to exploit Chávez’s exit from the scene without risking turning him into a revolutionary martyr. So the opposition has remained quiet, mumbling the occasional polite wish for a speedy recovery. And they might mean it.