For a long time I have been saying (along with a lot of other people), that Hugo Chavez was running his country into the ground. He diverted investment funds from PDVSA, Venezuela's state-run oil company, into social programs. As long as the price of oil kept rising, he could do that. Unfortunately, Venezuela's sour, heavy crude is particularly hard to get at and refine, and requires a high rate of investment in order to keep production up. As a result, the number of barrels per day (bpd) that Venezuela produces has declined pretty sharply since he took office in 1999.
As a consequence, the money that Chavez used to paper over the cracks in his socialist paradise has vanished, and the cracks are deepening:
President Hugo Chávez has been facing a public outcry in recent weeks over power failures that, after six nationwide blackouts in the last two years, are cutting electricity for hours each day in rural areas and in industrial cities like Valencia and Ciudad Guayana. Now, water rationing has been introduced here in the capital.
The deterioration of services is perplexing to many here, especially because the country had grown used to cheap, plentiful electricity and water in recent decades. But even as the oil boom was enriching his government and Mr. Chávez asserted greater control over utilities and other industries in this decade, public services seemed only to decay, adding to residents' frustrations.With oil revenues declining and the economy slowing, the shortages may have no quick fixes in sight. The government announced some emergency measures this week, including limits on imports of air-conditioning systems, rate increases for consumers of large amounts of power and the building of new gas-fired power plants, which would not be completed until the middle of the next decade.
This comes on top of the sporadic food shortages that result from price controls combined with high inflation.