Hugo Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, is getting desperate.
Today, he is supposed to announce new measures to reform the Venezuelan economy — an economy that, for the last 12 months, has had an average inflation rate of almost 50% and faced shortages of staples like toilet paper.
What’s worse, is that the 2014 budget the Venezuelan legislature proposed last month basically ignores all those facts, and bases its allocations on an inflation outlook of 26-28%.
Meanwhile, there are signs everywhere that Maduro is grasping at any possible shred of political legitimacy he can get his hands on. Last month, he asked the legislature to grant him special powers to combat corruption and economic sabotage.
It can’t be stressed enough — he is no Chavez. So his administration has to compensate.
And here are some bizarre ways he’s doing it.
- The country has created a ‘Vice Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness’ to combat despair. Maduro’s opposition responded that the people will be happy when they have something to eat.
- For the “sake of happiness”, the Ministry moved Christmas up to November 1st — this may also be an attempt to jump-start some consumption. As Venezuelan paper El Universal points, out, it also could also be a way for the government to give its ministers some cash in the form of early Christmas bonuses right before election day on December 8th.
- Election Day just so happens to fall on the same day as the ‘Day of Loyalty to the Supreme Commander Hugo Chavez’ — now guess who that will get out on the streets all amped up and ready to vote… The opposition has cried foul, but Maduro is “certain” that everyone will vote their political conscience.
- Maduro wants to go to war with Twitter, after several accounts belonging to his government’s Ministers were frozen.
- Maduro announced that a bunch of construction workers saw the face of Chavez while they were working in an underground subway the other day.
- The government sent troops to take over a toilet paper factory to “safeguard” production.
So yeah, things are getting weird.