Venezuela: Misery and missiles

faustaby Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Johns Hopkins economics professor Steve Hanke has been looking at the old misery index, that is, a simple sum of inflation, lending rates, and unemployment rates, minus year-on-year per capita GDP growth, and Venezuela’s on top:

When measured by the misery index, Venezuela holds the ignominious top spot, with an index value of 79. 4. But, that index value, as of 31 December 2013, under states the level of misery because it uses the official annual inflation rate of 56. 2%. In fact, I estimate that Venezuela’s annual implied inflation rate at the end of last year was 278%. That rate is almost five times higher than the official inflation rate. If the annual implied inflation rate of 278% is used to calculate Venezuela’s misery index, the index jumps from 79. 4 to 301, indicating that Venezuela is in much worse shape than suggested by the official data.

Since the government has imposed price controls on mostly everything, the inflation rate appears to be low, but so are the store shelves,

There’s one thing Venezuela has plenty of: guns. Olympian Gabby Franco describes how Venezuelan citizens are not allowed to own guns, but the country has the highest murder rate in our hemisphere,

John Hinderaker posts,

Now, socialist Venezuela is in a state of collapse, with rampant inflation and shortages of basic necessities, like food. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, probably millions, have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the government’s corrupt incompetence. The socialist government, now headed by Nicolas Maduro, has responded with a brutal crackdown in which dozens of anti-socialist Venezuelans have been murdered by government forces or paramilitary, pro-government gangs that–who could have guessed?–are heavily armed, despite the country’s “progressive” firearms laws.

In addition to the marauding gangs armed to the teeth, the country is armed. Russia is Venezuela’s largest supplier of weapons and armored vehicles, but China and Iran are involved, too.

Joseph Humire explains,

Using civilian militias to shoot students and beat protestors is only one tool in Maduro’s repressive apparatus. Other tools have come at the hands of one of Venezuela’s top benefactors — China. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, at least two Chinese-made military systems have recently been battle tested on the streets of Venezuela.

The first is the Norinco VN-4 armored personnel carrier that has been recently deployed by the Bolivarian National Guard to patrol Venezuelan neighborhoods and intimidate its residents. The VN-4 is a multi-role, light armored vehicle with a light machine gun mounted on top. Venezuela purchased 141 of these armored vehicles in 2012 for this type of contingency, and they are now rolling through the streets of Venezuela in the face of the protests. The other system is the Shaanxi Y-8C military transport aircraft, of which Venezuela purchased eight from China for $353 million back in 2011. These Y-8C aircraft were seen on the tarmac of several Venezuelan airports last month, made public through an array of photos posted on Twitter that claimed Cuban Special Forces were disembarking this Chinese-made aircraft.

. . .  on February 26th, a Russian Vishnya-class intelligence ship, the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, was identified in the Havana harbor, just hours from Venezuela. This spy ship arrived unannounced, fully equipped with electronic eavesdropping equipment and weaponry. That same day, several Russian-made surface-to-air missiles were relocated from the Venezuelan military industrial hub of Maracay, to the capital of Caracas. These particular missiles, the S-125 Pechora 2M, were sold to Venezuela by Russia in 2009, and delivered to the Bolivarian Republic as recently as a couple weeks before the mass mobilizations began.

These low altitude surface-to-air missiles are the same kind of anti-aircraft weapons that Vladimir Putin sold to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which limited the option of placing a “no-fly” zone over Syria as Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his people. The repositioning of the Pechora missiles to Caracas is an ominous indication that the repression in Venezuela will get much worse if the protests continue.

Cuba, China, Russia and Iran are involved in Venezuela’s dictatorial regime.

No wonder the country is #1 in the misery index.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.