Archive for July 31st, 2011

Does it really matter who is named Minister under Chavez?

July 31, 2011

I have been somewhat surprised by the number of emails and comments talking about the fact that Deputy Iris Varela was named Minister for Prisons or whatever name that new Ministry was given.

But really, does it really matter?

The fact that Ms. Varela has no managing experience is simply a continuation of a long chain of Ministers with similar non-qualifications. About the only requirement to be Minister under Chavez is that you are loyal. I mean, a guy who seeks treatment for a life-threatening disease with the least competent possibility, can not truly believe in expertise.

Take über Minister Jorge Giordani, he has a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering, a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and now he is Minister of Planning and Minister of Finance, is on the Board of the Central Bank and PDVSA. For only a brief time during Chavez’ tenure, Giordani has not been in charge of Economic Planning in the country. During this period, inflation is close to 1000% and except that one is not allowed to quote the parallel rate, devaluation has also been in that same range. Giordani has tried everything an has been unable to reduce inflation, reduce debt, control liquidity. He ha no idea on what needs to be done, but he keeps chugging along.

It seems to be the same everywhere, Setty has told us recently about the wonderful plans to increase oil production under Rafael Ramirez, while Cronicas de Caracas told us about the Minister of Sports that wants to pass a Bill that will likely destroy professional sports in Venezuela and we are not even sure the guy ever graduated from the University. But we are sure Vice-President Jaua did, even if it took him 15 (or was it 20?) years to do it. Oh yeah! Minister Garces has a Ph.D., which he obtained in 2007, he never even proved he could research, let alone manage a group, or a Minsitry and his expertise has little to do with being Minister of Transport and Communications.

So, should I really care about Iris Varela being named Minister for Prisons? Not really. Would she recognize a human right if she saw one? Ask Cesar Perez Vivas. Today she says very nonchalantly that 20,000 of the 45,000 prisoners in the country “have all the legal conditions to be out of jail”. She talks as if she was an extra-terrestrial who just landed in Venezuela to solve the prison problem, not an integral part of the Government which has allowed this “small” illegality to exist. I mean, the same people who have ignored for twelve years the crime problem, all of a sudden realize there are 20,000 people in jail who should legally be free. She proves it today when she says: If a Judge does not obey me, I just ask the Chief Justice to remove him.  This is Varela’s concept of “Justice” tp say nothing of the  absence of room for criticism in the revolution.

And her goal? To shut down jails. Really, and where does she plan to put the 30,000 remaining prisoners who are currently in jails designed for about 15,000 prisoners at most?

In the end, it really does not matter. Know how, knowledge, ability, management are simply non existing concepts in the revolution. Just to prove it, look up PDVSA’s financials in the company’s webpage. Don’t look at revenues, don’t look at earnings, don’t look at production. Simply go to point g) on page 14. There under the heading “Research and Development” you will see the progression of expenses for this very important (to me!) item:

2008 $555 million

2009 $276 million

2010 $188 million

To me that says it all about the role of knowledge and know-how in the Chavez revolution. As a General told me ominously a few years ago: “If Chavez can Be President, why not me?”