Here’s the latest in the tragicomedy of errors that is Venezuela: Trying to organize the economic disaster in Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has announced the creation of the Ministry of Internal Trade.
“We need a strong economy, we need a good strong domestic market and a well-organized domestic trade, so I decided to create the Ministry of Internal Trade,” Maduro said.
Flashback to 1961 Cuba. When Fidel Castro was cementing his hold on the island, he, too, created a Ministry of Internal Trade, known by the acronym MINCIN.
As the faithful follower of any directive that comes from Havana, no matter how foolish or destructive, Maduro has even copied to a T the name of the ministry responsible for controlling Cubans’ meager diet.
If Maduro’s ministry is like Castro’s, Venezuelans should prepare for food rationing, ration cards and long lines for bread and eggs. Basically, Cuba’s ministry oversaw the collapse of the nation’s food industry. It could be ditto for Venezuela.
Many economists have warned that the economic program of the Chavista leader will exacerbate the crisis in Venezuela. According to IMF estimates, inflation this year will reach an appalling 1,000,000 percent.
Maduro said that 72 percent of the population supports his economic recovery program, which includes an increase in taxes and wages and the devaluing the currency 95.8 percent, plus price controls on products. But the percentage of popular support Maduro announced could be questioned in light of the stampede of Venezuelans fleeing to neighboring countries — and other sanctuaries farther away, like South Florida. Between January and July, for example, nearly 150,000 Venezuelans entered Chile.
Chile is the fourth most sought destination in South America for refugees of Venezuela’s economic and social meltdown. Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer reports today that about 1 million have fled to Colombia alone. Peru has taken in 400,000; and Ecuador, 250,000.
According to the United Nations, 2.3 million Venezuelans have gone abroad. The figure is huge for a country that, until recently, was receiving immigrants.
The United States is giving these destination countries aid to alleviate the impact of immigration, but the task must also be borne by the other governments in the hemisphere. The crisis transcends national borders. It has become a continental problem and should addressed as such.
Other countries in the region should support the United States as it exerts pressure on Venezuela. The Organization of American States (OAS) should put the Venezuelan disaster up for discussion, take steps to control the immigration crisis and advocate for the return of democracy to the troubled South American country.
Luis Almagro, OAS secretary general, should provide the resolute leadership needed.
By repeating stale, failed formulas of the ailing Cuban economy, such as the creation of the Ministry of Internal Trade, Maduro merely confirms what has been said, facetiously, is the definition of insanity.
As the Venezuelan president’s stubbornness and inconsistency — to say nothing of his brutal authoritarianism — continue to sow misery, the hemispheric community should press for a reasonable and humane solution to a crisis that has spilled over Venezuela’s borders.