Mugabe Cracking Skulls in Zimbabwe

Sadly, I’m speaking literally:

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was in intensive care with a suspected skull fracture on Wednesday after what he says was a brutal attack by President Robert Mugabe’s police.

Images of a battered Tsvangirai appearing in court have fueled world outrage over a crackdown on political protests by Mugabe’s government and its treatment of opponents.

Tsvangirai, speaking to a radio reporter from his hospital bed, said he was attacked after arriving at a police station to check on supporters who had been detained with him on Sunday when the government broke up a planned prayer vigil.

“It was almost as if they were waiting for me,” he said in remarks broadcast on South Africa’s national radio.

“Before I could even settle down I was subjected to a lot of beatings, in fact it was random beatings, but I think the intention was to inflict as much harm as they could.”

I think we’re reaching the endgame of Mugabe’s tyranny. We’ve basically seen the collapse of society in an orgy of socialist dictatorship. Tsangvirai was the head of the opposition group protesting Mugabe’s attempt to extend his rule even further into the future.

The arrests came as Zimbabwe faces a deepening economic crisis with inflation at more than 1,700 percent, unemployment of 80 percent and shortages of food, fuel and foreign exchange.

Mugabe originally proposed adjusting election dates to extend his current term by two years to 2010, and then said that if necessary he would be willing to stand in elections in 2008 — meaning he could remain in office through 2014.

Zimbabwe was known for decades as “the breadbasket of Africa”. Bad policies by Mugabe have destroyed the economy and turned a nation with a surplus of food into a land of starvation. In a nation with such obvious problems, the people have nothing to lose. This may be the rallying point for the citizens of Zimbabwe to finally take down Mugabe.

Venezuela — Inflation -> Price Controls -> Shortages

And the economists in the room smack their foreheads and let out a resounding “D’UH!”*

Yep, what a surprise:

At the Coche wholesale food market in southwestern Caracas, business is topsy-turvy: Vendors say they have nothing to sell.

“Our suppliers are saying, `No, we had an accident at the plant,'” said Jose Branco, manager of a dairy store in Coche, the Venezuelan capital’s largest open market. “So we have to limit the amount of product we sell to each customer.”

The tale is being repeated throughout this country of 26 million. The reason: Inflation is now so high that the government has put price controls on basic goods such as chicken, beef and sugar, leaving vendors in search of an escape hatch.

The inflation rate in Venezuela has now hit 20.4 percent, the highest in the Western Hemisphere, amid the widespread changes instituted by President Hugo Chavez.

The retail sellers understand what’s going on. And they know they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place:

At the Coche wholesale market, meat seller Varela says the prices have left him in a quandary.

“I could sell the meat secretly, because there’s demand, or I could not sell because the price isn’t any good, or I could change professions,” he said caustically.

So he can break the law, or he can go out of business. Either shows the folly of price controls.

As any economist will tell you, when you remove the profit margin, done here to the point where often a business will lose money by selling at the approved prices, you see the end of supply:

Wilson Rangel, who runs a meatpacking plant in the Baruta municipality along the southern edge of Caracas, said he used to get 120 cows a week. But last week, he said, he received 20 because it’s not profitable to slaughter cows at such low prices.

“There are five slaughterhouses around here, but the cows aren’t coming,” he said.

Cheese, sugar and chicken supplies have also dwindled. Blocks of cheese can cost distributors more than double what they sell it for, they said; sugar supplies have slowed.

Now remember, with high oil prices, Chavez and Venezuela are flush with money. So why can’t the people of Venezuela get a hold of things like beef, chicken, cheese, and sugar? Maybe some of the Chavez apologists can explain this to me?

Of course, the Venezuelan government has a “plan” to stop the inflation that has hit such high levels. But Venezuelan financial analysts think they’re offering empty promises.

Annual inflation reached 20.4 percent in Venezuela in February, as soaring government spending pumped cash into the economy and exchange controls trapped money in the system.

“Prices are going to fall a little bit in March because they cut the value-added tax,” Miguel Octavio, head of research at BBO Financial Services in Caracas, said in a telephone interview. “But that doesn’t mean inflation will slow for long. It’s temporary, it’s a one shot deal.”

Octavio, who called the central bank’s 12 percent target “unbelievable” given the 3.7 percent inflation the country racked up in the first two months of the year, doubted the government’s measures.

“These things attack the effects of inflation, not the origin of the problem,” he said. “Unless the government announces it’s going to start spending less tomorrow, I don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Hmm… The answer is to stop printing money to cover your overspending… I only wish our own politicians would figure that out.
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Over/Under on Nationalization?

If I were you, I’d worry about putting money in Repsol’s stock. They’re making a deal with Chavez, under the assumption that he’ll actually honor it! That’s not a way to look after your stockholders…

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela has awarded Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF and Japan’s Teikoku Oil Co. 20-year licenses to explore for and produce natural gas, the state oil company said on its Web site Thursday.

Repsol will take a 60 percent stake in a joint venture with state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, to exploit the Quiriquire Deep gas field, which has the potential to produce 280 million cubic feet a day of gas, PDVSA said.

President Hugo Chavez’s government has taken control of most of the oil industry in an effort to bring greater benefits to the country’s poor, and vowed to make similar moves in the gas sector.

PDVSA, however, has downplayed those comments and continued to award majority stakes in natural gas projects to private companies.

So what do you think the over/under is on the day that Chavez nationalizes these ventures? I’d guess it will be about 10 minutes after they start producing…

Cheering For A Venezuelan Coup

In the comments to Doug’s last post, and in the comments on Reddit, people seem shocked that Doug would advocate a military coup to overthrow Chavez.

They’re shocked, of course, because a site called the Liberty Papers would suggest that a military coup to overthrow a quasi-democratically elected president. The key, of course, is that they equate liberty and democracy. Only they’re not equal. Chavez’ propensity to nationalize sectors of his economy and his desire to destroy personal wealth through monetary inflation make him a distinct threat to liberty. To me, it doesn’t matter if he was democratically elected or not.

You see, there are two definitions of democracy. One is the correct definition, and that is rule through elections. However, that definition is not in common parlance. The second definition is a state where many of the levers of power are controlled through a democratic manner, in a state which also protects individual rights through the rule of law. The first definition leads, quite commonly, to tyranny. The second definition is generally a pretty liberty-friendly society.

You see, here at The Liberty Papers, we have little love for democracy for democracy’s sake. We are interested in outcomes which support liberty. The first definition of democracy doesn’t usually do so, as Chavez and Venezuela are pointing out. The second definition of democracy usually does support liberty, but Chavez has been ruling by decree, not by law, nationalizing the economy, and destroying the currency, so Venezuela doesn’t meet the second definition.

Whether Chavez was elected democratically or not, he is acting as a dictator in ways to fundamentally destroy the liberties of the people of Venezuela. Thus, it is my position that he should be removed from power, for the good of the Venezuelan people. Now, I’m not advocating that this be something the United States get involved with. After all, while Chavez is a loudmouth, he doesn’t threaten the United States. However, should he be overthrown from within by forces who will restore the liberties of the Venezuelan people, I’ll be raising my glass in support.

UPDATE: It appears that commenter “lifeofliberty” is willing to allow anyone who is democratically elected to do whatever they like. I would assume, then, that he supports President Bush choosing what portions of laws he will or will not enforce through “signing statements”? I would assume he wouldn’t have a problem with our Congress giving him near-dictatorial power for 18 months? I would assume he’s in favor of domestic wiretapping, and the suspension of habeas corpus, and Guantanamo bay? Because even though Bush was democratically elected, I find those things deplorable and think they are anti-liberty. I guess “lifeofliberty” believes that because “the people” voted for Bush, all these things are just fine?

Straight out of “Atlas Shrugged”

Hugo Chavez is seizing oil projects run by foreign entities:

President Hugo Chavez ordered by decree on Monday the takeover of oil projects run by foreign oil companies in Venezuela’s Orinoco River region.

Chavez had previously announced the government’s intention to take a majority stake by May 1 in four heavy oil-upgrading projects run by British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Chevron Corp. (CVX), ConocoPhillips (COP) Co., Total SA (TOT) and Statoil ASA. (STO)

He said Monday that has decreed a law to proceed with the nationalizations that will see state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, taking at least a 60 percent stake in the projects.

“The privatization of oil in Venezuela has come to an end,” he said on his weekday radio show, “Hello, President.””This marks the true nationalization of oil in Venezuela.”

By May 1, “we will occupy these fields” and have the national flag flying on them, he said.