Now what? The 2013 crisis

Having seen the main political consequences of the October 7 result, we may indulge in a little bit of forecasting.

There is a crisis coming and it is unavoidable. The only way the crisis impact could be softened is if chavismo accepted to recognize the existence of the opposition and a return to a more democratic state, by relinquishing at lease a couple of the 5 powers that it currently hold in a tight fisted hand. Once the opposition understands that its basic civil , and human, rights will be respected, only then the regime will become a government again and co-opt the opposition into taking the hard measures that cannot be avoided any longer. But Chavez been the scorpion to the swimming toad, such concessions simply will not occur as he is alive. No NEP for the Narcissistic-Leninist regime.

Thus an economical and political crisis is in the works, with a scenario like the one described below.

The bases for the crisis are two fold: first an economic implosion and second an internal crisis of chavismo due to the reactions to that crisis. Note that in the scenario below I am not contemplating the "Chavez death watch factor" because a crisis is coming and his eventual death will only aggravate, or soften, the crisis. Nor I am discussing constitutional changes are those will just be additional tools for repression.

Price of oil is not going to rise much more than what it is now, unless there is a major conflict in the Middle East, something that seems to recede somewhat for the time being as Iran is into its own crisis and needs cash.

Venezuelan production is not going up the way it should and even if the Orinoco Belt contractors start producing more, it may not be enough to compensate the losses of PDVSA fields themselves. Indication that the Venezuela oil industry is not doing well are the increasing gasoline imports we are doing.

Never mind that the US is cracking up more and more natural gas and its dependency on oil is going to decrease. In spite of 14 years of anti US revolution, among the many lies of Chavez Venezuela has still as its main trading partner the grand olde US of A. In the near future US purchases are going to start dropping faster than what they are doing now.

Thus oil is not going to be enough of an economic cushion for Chavez because its benefits are not going to increase enough to compensate his faster growing needs.

There are two things that Chavez cannot postpone much longer, a 40% devaluation and a steep increase in gasoline prices. With some political luck he may push that to the second semester of 2013, but he cannot avoid it.

The real problem Venezuela has this time around is that the systematic downgrading of the private sector will make any oncoming economic crisis much longer and painful. The private sector today has no reserves, and if it has some they are in foreign currency and will not return to Venezuela under the current situation. The reserves they may have in bolivares will be consumed in wages very fast until bankruptcy arrives and all are in the streets.

In addition to catastrophic economic policies which have turned Venezuela into an importer of almost everything it needs, constantly pushed labor laws and regulations have a triple negative effect: labor costs are now very high, employee management is more and more difficult and yet the workers are not benefiting from anything. Thus a consumption driven recovery is not an option since the Venezuelan productive tissue is basically stuck while inflation will eat up fast disposable income. A major devaluation this time will mean bankruptcies all around since the current legal system will forbid any adaption for survival by most business. The public sector will have all the guilt for the crisis and all the burden to solve it.

The only way out is a national deal where the opposition is included to allow for the necessary measures and the political time for implementation and results. We know that this is not going to happen and thus the regime will enter into its outright repressive mode as people will turn on each other and against the regime. Except that the repression will break up what we can loosely call the Chavez coalition.

At this point the Chavez coalition, has little to do with the voters clientele and more with the corruption clientele and its ideology as this one may indeed exist. On one side there is the bolibourgeoisie that got filthy rich out of state contracts and assorted corruption schemes. The military ruling strata can be loosely annexed to that group. On the other side, and equally corrupt, there is a civilian group of left wing ideology more or less strongly committed depending of their wishes to retain office and keep cashing at the cashier. The military is not really an in between group: they hold the real power since Chavez has transformed Venezuela into a military regime for all practical purposes. Consider that the military is a political party of sorts except that it holds the weapons. It is the group Chavez likes best though without trusting it more than the other. Just look at the governor candidates: out of 23 I count at least 10 military or military associated (for example in Falcon it is the wife of a military that held the spot before she was "elected").

The problem with that coalition is that the chips are going to fall down and the military is going to be asked to repress the people in exchange of 14 years of getting rich. Will they do it for the bolibourgeois? Will they do it for the civilian left (and Cuba)? Will they do it for Chavez now that they know his star is fading, slowly but surely, like a red giant star? Will they do it for themselves and do the coup they had no need to do until now?

The opposition in all of this is standing on the side. It can do nothing except offer an alternative vision of things that some inside the regime may decide to call in, at some point, before it is too late. As long as Chavez, and he is truly the main culprit here, can only see the opposition as enemies that need to be destroyed, we keep rolling toward the final crisis, the longer we wait for that crisis the worse it will be.