Venezuela, on the path to implosion, expels diplomats
THE EXPULSION of three U.S. diplomats by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro last week should be taken as one more symptom of the unravelling of the crackpot socialist regime inflicted on the country by the late Hugo Chávez. Mr. Maduro, a former bus driver picked by Mr. Chavez to replace him as he was dying of cancer, accused Charge D’affairs Kelly Keiderling and two colleagues of plotting to sabotage the crumbling national electric grid, histrionically shouting “Yankee, go home” for good measure.
The charges are ridiculous, but there is logic to their timing. Mr. Maduro’s government is besieged by the consequences of 14 years of disastrous economic policies: inflation that has risen above 45 percent; severe shortages, including of food staples and toilet paper; chronic power outages, including one that turned out lights in 70 percent of the country last month; and one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime.
Two weeks ago the president travelled to China in the hope of extracting a cash loan from one of Venezuela’s biggest oil customers. According to reports in the Venezuelan press, he was turned down. Incredibly, a country that receives $90?billion a year in oil revenue lacks the cash to import basic consumer goods. Meanwhile well-connected officials and businessmen feast on the difference between the official rate of exchange for the dollar and the black-market rate, which is seven times higher. And then there is drug trafficking: French authorities last month seized more than 1.3?tons of cocaine worth $270 million from an Air France flight originating in Caracas, showing that large-scale smuggling operations that have been linked to senior military commanders continue.
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