Venezuela and political clientelism

Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chávez back in the early days of ALBA
Tim Rogers

Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chávez in the early days of ALBA

Insecurity, blackouts and scarcity of food and medicines have driven Venezuelans to the streets. Since Feb. 12, when the first students’ demonstration took place, the protests have continued in different points of the country. Citizens ask themselves: Why being a millionaire country, there is a lack of milk and toilet paper?

Everything indicates that Venezuelan administration has neglected economy, and has focused on strengthening the Bolivarian Alternative for the People of Our America project (known as ALBA) through disorganized cooperation with its members (Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) to lead a regional initiative through political clientelism.

The resources that seemed to be unlimited and that would promote the end of economic and social inequalities in the ALBA countries, not even in Venezuela have been invested on the well-being of the citizens who are desperately protesting in the streets. They are tired of repression and tired of the violation of their human, civil and political rights.

The Cooperation with Nicaragua

During June 2013, when Venezuela was already suffering of scarcity, President Nicolas Maduro unexpectedly visited Nicaragua to “revise” the cooperation in all areas.  According to the Central Bank of Nicaragua, between the years 2008 and 2012, bilateral cooperation received from Venezuela added up to $2,811.9 million.

The use of these resources in Nicaragua has been done in a discretionary manner since 2007, through ALBA of Nicaragua S.A. (ALBANISA) whose stocks are owned by the Venezuelan PDVSA and the Nicaraguan Oil Company (PETRONIC). ALBANISA was constituted as a public company to receive oil from Venezuela, but it also manages the funds of the Venezuelan cooperation privately and centrally, without any clear accountability. There also exists a conglomerate of private companies linked to ALBANISA in different sectors, such as food, security services, management of power plants, handling in ports, distribution of buses for urban transport and construction of houses for social intrest.

On the other hand, ALBA’s funds are also financing subsidies to the public transportation, solidarity bonus (raise to the salary of public employees), elderly bonus (monthly allowance to the elderly Nicaraguans), among other social projects of the Nicaraguan government.

The close relation between the two countries has turned Venezuela into the main markets for the Nicaraguan private sector that exports coffee, black beans, sugar and diary.

Because of the magnitude of the Venezuelan aid to the country, since last year the Nicaraguan Foundation for Social and Economic Development (FUNIDES) alerted that the reduction of the Venezuelan cooperation, if not catastrophic, will affect significantly the local economy, and proposed that the government should design a National Plan along with Nicaraguan businessmen and all different sectors of the country. However, this proposal was totally ignored.

Nicaragua is keeping a watchful eye on what is happening in Venezuela because the events that have been triggered could bring serious consequences to the Nicaraguan economy in short term, especially if the resources for the assistance projects that the government has been implementing fail, and since the magnitude and the consequences of the debt to Venezuela is not known.

Will it be now, and after what has happened in Venezuela, that the Nicaraguan government will listen to civil society, and will start to think about the welfare of all the population and not only in the one of its supporters?

This article was originally published inOpen Society Online


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