The people of Venezuela can rejoice… not so fast. Amid paranoid-sounding (though not unlikely) rantings about US-created coups (and blaming ‘economic’ war for his nation’s Socialist utopia hyperinflation), it appears President Maduro just got another life-line (or more rope to hang himself). After begging China’s leader Xi early in January for moar money (and getting it), China – which is already Venezuela’s biggest creditor with over $50 billion loaned since 2007 – as Reuters reports, is said to plan on signing another $5bn loan to Venezuela for “wide-ranging” projects like “mature oil fields.” So, it appears China is enabling Maduro to hollow out his economy even more.
China is poised to lend Venezuela around $10 billion in coming months, half as part of a bilateral financing deal and the other half for development of oil fields, a senior official at state oil company PDVSA said on Thursday.
The first $5 billion loan, part of the Joint Chinese-Venezuelan Fund, is due to be signed this monthand will be destined for wide-ranging projects in the OPEC country, said the official.
The other separate $5 billion loan is set to be clinched in June and will likely stipulate contracting Chinese companies to boost production in PDVSA’s mature oil fields, the source added.
“China wants to decisively back investments in areas like mature oil fields so that PDVSA can rapidly increase its production,” said the source, who asked not to be identified.
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Maybe it’s time to stock up on condoms and toilet paper?
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Finally, as we noted previously, the thread by which Venezuelan socialism hangs may soon snap…
For many years, the Venezuelan government was able to mask the failures of Hugo Chavez’ “socialist revolution” somewhat with the help of the country’s oil revenues. However, it should be remembered that shortages of basic goods in Venezuela are nothing new; the first press reports appeared about two years ago, when oil prices were still quite high (see also this late 2013 article of ours: “The Hygienically Challenged Crack-Up Boom”). As we quoted from a press report on that occasion, some Marxists – as long as they are members of the ruling class – seem actually not overly worried about scarcity:
“Not everyone thinks these shortages spell bad news. Planning Minister Jorge Giordani, an avowed Marxist, famously quipped in 2009 that “socialism has been built based on scarcity.”
Of course it was easy to make such quips, callous though they may be, back when the hugely popular Hugo Chavez was still around and able to distribute large oil revenues with both hands. The situation is a lot more difficult for Nicolas Maduro, who is probably slowly but surely getting worried about the potential for a counter-revolution (there has already beenintermittent unrest in Caracas – and at the time the bolivar’s black market rate was still 85 to the dollar instead of 185).
Russia’s economy is likewise suffering from the decline in oil prices , but its government has a lot more breathing room in terms of debt and foreign exchange reserves and would be able to greatly help its economy merely by getting serious about tackling corruption.
Maduro has a much bigger problem, as he would essentially be forced to abandon the very ideology he so wholeheartedly supports if he wants to turn the floundering ship around. He does have one advantage over Putin though: he has very little to lose anymore in terms of his approval ratings. He probably must worry about his party comrades though, many of whom will be reluctant to abandon the late and great Hugo Chavez’ “socialist achievements”. It will be interesting to see how things will play out, in light of Maduro lately adopting steps he would never have taken a year ago. Still, given the government’s debt situation and Venezuela’s monetary statistics, a complete loss of confidence in the currency remains a very real possibility. In other words, the thread by which Venezuelan socialism hangs may soon snap.