Putin and Chávez Share Totalitarian Dreams

The New York Times has an editorial today about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his latest wave of expropriations. One can read such an item and easily substitute “Russia” and “Vladimir Putin” to get a precise and devastating critique of what’s gone wrong in both countries. That said, at least in Venezuela democracy continues to have a heartbeat, the media is free, the courts have more independence, and there aren’t political prisoners. Really Chávez could lecture some of the siloviki on how to steal like a gentleman. NYT:

What is certain is that the country’s economy will suffer. Mr. Chavez’s cronies have proved that they don’t have the skill — or the honesty — to run these businesses. Bungled management is responsible for a decline in production at the state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, known as Pdvsa. The expropriations, added to exchange controls and price controls, are holding back much needed private investment. Even soaring oil prices aren’t helping. High global food prices and unfettered government spending have pushed annual inflation well past 20 percent, while price controls are producing shortages of basic foods. Last year, Mr. Chávez forced foreign oil companies to give up control of oil fields in eastern Venezuela, and he nationalized the country’s largest telecommunications company and the electricity company serving the capital, Caracas. These new expropriations were another attempt to grab control of all of Venzuela’s economic and political life while providing more opportunities for patronage and corruption.