July 30, 2017
Venezuela oil elections

Believe it or not there is one country in the hemisphere with more chaotic and uncertain politics than the US. Venezuela. That being the country from which our United States imports 700,000 barrels of oil per day, and also a slightly smaller number of shortstops. For the past few months that’s more than we have imported from the Saudis (oil, that is, never been a Saudi who could hit a major league curve ball).

Today (Sunday, the 30th) Venezuela is voting on a constitutional end-around that more or less everyone thinks will install its klepto-crypto-socialist government for the forseeable future. Keep an eye on that one. The only reason I can figure that Venezuela doesn’t already look like Yemen or Syria (or even Libya) is that it’s a fairly culturally cohesive place. No history of sectarianism or ethno-religious cleansing. However, the curtain of civilization is thinner than we often realize, and can take ages to repair once it is torn. If a highly functioning, popular government were installed tomorrow, Venezuela would probably take a couple of decades to repair the damage done in the last three or four. A large chunk of a generation of ambition and prosprity have been thrown away already, and it could still get worse.

The crisis in Venezuela has also stayed surprisingly domestic, up to now. Sure, there has been brain drain, and a certain amount of overflow into its next door neighbor, Colombia. But people who are hungre and sick and getting shot at in the streets can get understandably desperate. We haven’t seen this at scale in the western hemisphere in some time.