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dissabte, 2 d’abril de 2016

Venezuela parece Zimbabue hace 15 años

THE ECONOMIST.- Cash machines in Caracas spit out crisp new bills with consecutive serial numbers. The last time your correspondent saw such a thing was in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s. The IMF predicts that inflation will be 720% in Venezuela this year, a figure Zimbabwe hit in 2006. By 2008 Zimbabwe was racked by hyperinflation so crippling that beggars who were offered billion-Zimbabwe-dollar bills would frown and reject them (see chart).

Might Venezuela go the way of Zimbabwe? They are culturally very different, but the political parallels are ominous. Both countries have suffered under charismatic revolutionary leaders. Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980. Hugo Chávez ran Venezuela from 1998 until his death in 2013. His handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro, continues his policies, though with none of Chávez’s—or Mr Mugabe’s—political adroitness.

Mr Mugabe seized big commercial farms without compensation, wrecking Zimbabwe’s largest industry. Chávez expropriated businesses on a whim, sometimes on live television. He sacked 20,000 workers from the state oil firm, PDVSA, and replaced them with 100,000 often incompetent loyalists, some of whom were set to work stitching revolutionary T-shirts.

Mr Mugabe lost a referendum in 2000 but rigged the subsequent election to keep the (more popular) opposition out of power. The chavistas lost a parliamentary election in December but have used their control of the presidency and supreme court to neuter the (more popular) opposition.

Mr Mugabe recruited a ragtag militia of “war veterans” to intimidate his opponents. Chávez recruited gangs from the slums, known as colectivos, to terrorise his. On March 5th gangsters on motorbikes rode around the (opposition-controlled) National Assembly and sprayed pro-government slogans such as “Chávez vive” on its walls. Police stood and watched.

Yet the key similarity between the two regimes is not their thuggishness but their economic ineptitude. Both believe that market forces can be bossed around like soldiers on parade. In both cases, the results are similar: shortages, inflation and tumbling living standards.
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