Tuesday, December 06, 2005

For the people, with the people and in favor of the people

That's Venezuela's version of democracy. If you haven't been paying attention, and I know it's difficult to pay much attention to a banana/narco/oil republic way so far south of the one in Mexico, I'll bring you up to date.

This week 75% of the electorate, including ALL of the opposition parties and their candidates, boycotted the national legislative elections. This meant that president Hugo "Gorilla" Chavez's party won all legislative seats. All of them. 100%. Just like in Cuba or North Korea or China or Burma/Myanwhatever. And the first move on the part of the legislature "for the people, with the people and in favor of the people"? Pushing through legislature to guarantee that the Gorilla stays in office until the year 2030.

In other words, whatever semblance of a republic or democracy that may have existed in Venezuela at one time, it is no more. Dead, gone, flushed down the toilet, kaputski. Personally, I think that the Gorilla doesn't stay alive until 2030. But then, Fidel's stunning survival all these years should make me think twice about such a prediction. A people stupid enough to put up with that crap all these years deserve whatever they don't have, which is just about anything except tropical breezes and a bongo beat. Looks like the Venezuelans are headed down the same highway.

Now, the Gorilla has oil, and lots of it. Not as much as he had before the entire oil industry went on strike to protest his original fraudulent election some years ago. He fired everybody and imprisoned many. His oil production has never fully recovered, due to an outrageous series of accidents at major refining centers because of insufficient skilled workers, inadequate maintenance programs and too much money being skimmed off by the Gorilla and his political cronies to buy the people's votes (25% of them, anyway). In addition, two oil pipelines were sabotaged this week, just before the elections. Look for a lot more of that to start happening.

What can the US do about all this? Not much. Venezuelan oil is only about 4 days away. OPEC oil is 30-40 days away. In other words, it's much more expensive to get here. I might add that US refining capability is almost exclusively for "light crude" or "sweet crude" oil, like that which our own wells produce. Venezuela's wells produce "heavy crude" or "sour crude". That is, crude oil with a high sulfur content. So we don't actually buy and import much crude oil from Venezuela, Mexico, Brent Sea or OPEC. We also have to pay for its refining into all the various petroleum products we use, like, uh, gasoline, for instance and then import that.

Now, if we were to go on a refinery building spree, we could put a big dent in the Gorilla's budget plans by only paying him for the crude oil and than refining it here. That would just about shut down his refineries and cost him billions and tens of thousands of jobs. The Gorilla could then simply cut us off. His people would begin to starve, of course, but that would be our fault, or so he would say. In reality, we would then replace the Gorilla's crude with someone else's, which would drive up our energy costs - remember the 30-40 days from OPEC. In other words, there ain't much we can do, other than a .50 caliber bullet to the brainpan.

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