January 16, 2006


The Tehran-Caracas Axis: Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are more than just pen pals. (MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, January 16, 2006, Opinion Journal)

In his efforts to provoke the U.S., the Venezuelan no doubt hopes that saber rattling against imperialismo can stir up nationalist sentiment and save his floundering regime. That view argues that the U.S. would do best to ignore him, but it's not easy to ignore a Latin leader who seems intent on forging stronger ties with two of the worst enemies of the U.S., Ahmadinejad and Fidel Castro.

That Chávez is making a hash of the Venezuelan economy while he courts international notoriety is no secret. There are shortages of foodstuffs that are abundant even in other poor countries. Milk, flour for the national delight known as arepas, and sugar are in short supply. Coffee is scarce because roasters say government controls have set the price below costs, forcing them to eat losses. The Chávez response last week was a threat to nationalize the industry.

Property rights are being abolished. Last week, authorities invaded numerous "unoccupied" apartments in Caracas to hand them over to party faithful, part of a wider scheme to "equalize" life for Venezuelans.

A bridge collapse earlier this month on the main artery linking Caracas to the country's largest airport, seaport and an enormous bedroom community is seen as a microcosm of the country's failing infrastructure. Aside from the damage to commerce, it has caused great difficulties for the estimated 100,000 commuters who live on the coast, Robert Bottome, editor of the newsletter Veneconomy, told me from Caracas on Wednesday. The collapse diverted all this traffic to an old two-lane road with hairpin turns and more than 300 curves. It is now handling car traffic during the day and commercial traffic at night, with predictable backups.

With Venezuelan oil fields experiencing an annual depletion rate on the order of 25% and little government reinvestment in the sector, similar infrastructure problems are looming in oil. In November, Goldman Sachs emerging markets research commented on a fire at a "major refinery complex" in which 20 workers were injured: "In recent months there has been a string of accidents and other disruptions [of] oil infrastructure, which oil experts attribute to inadequate investment in maintenance and lack of technical expertise to run complex oil refining and exploration operations."

Though personally inclined to regime change the two Latin American tyrants and nuke the Iranian nuclear facilities, I don't get why Castro isn't a perfect argument for ignoring these guys. After all, Castro was only ever even a mild treat to the U.S. at the very beginning of his regime. As soon as he'd been in power a while he'd made such a hash of things in Cuba that he he could be safely ignored.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 16, 2006 9:22 PM

The argument would run, I believe, that oil is more important than cigars and rum.

Posted by: John Thacker at January 16, 2006 9:29 PM

Doing Venezuela would be worth it just to watch the top of the left's head pop off. Not that the same argument doesn't work for Cuba, too.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 16, 2006 9:40 PM

Well, the nukes would seem to be the wrench/spanner in the works.

IIRC, recent revelations out of the Soviet archives show that Castro wanted the Soviets to nuke us with the missiles they brought to Cuba.

Is there any reason to believe that Chavez is any less nuts than Castro, or that the Iranians are as sane as the Rooskis were?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at January 16, 2006 10:31 PM


No, if the USSR were to base nukes in Iran and Venezuela they'd be a threat.

Posted by: oj at January 16, 2006 10:48 PM

Let's assume that Iran will have nukes soon, and that their missiles are capable of reaching the southern US from Venezuela.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at January 16, 2006 11:14 PM


Why? There's no reason to believe they'll ever have them, nevermind soon, nevermind with functional missiles, nevermind that we allow them to move to VZ.

Posted by: oj at January 16, 2006 11:54 PM

John Thacker:

As the article points out, Venezuela isn't going to be exporting significant amounts of oil for much longer, as long as Chavez is in charge.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 17, 2006 2:22 AM

If Iran isn't close to nukes, why the five years of song and dance?

They're getting missiles from the Norks, no?

The Iranians hate us, but with their missiles they can only blackmail Europe and Israel, why not go whole hog and send a few to Venezuela?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at January 17, 2006 1:03 PM

I agree with OJ. Castro was a threat when he was backed by the USSR. Once the USSR fell, Castro became irrelevant. Chavez is the same thing – without superpower backing we can ignore him.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 17, 2006 1:04 PM


What five years? Estimates are they're ten years away.

Posted by: oj at January 17, 2006 2:03 PM

oh i think the iranians are a lot closer to getting a nuke, than 5 - 10 years...just not in the way they are planning.

Posted by: toe at January 17, 2006 6:00 PM

Castro had sugar; Chavez has oil.

Posted by: Genecis at January 17, 2006 9:10 PM