Hugo Chavez is running for re-election in Venezuela, but recently he paused long enough to endorse the re-election campaign of US President Barack Obama. To date, President Obama has not returned the favor.
However, there are certain qualities in oil-rich Venezuela's government (or Putin's Russia) that must resonate in Washington, D.C. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The question is, who is imitating whom?
In Venezuela, the economy's fundamentals are in terrible shape, but there is a blush of prosperity caused by the government's printing money. In the US, the stock market rally may be getting wrinkled and tired, but there is no doubt that the Fed's decision to pump up the money supply has added some rouge to the old gal's cheeks.The bill for the cosmetics will come due in both countries, but not until after the election.
Meanwhile, the opposition in both countries point to records of unfulfilled promises. Mr. Chavez has failed to improve the housing stock in bulk, but he has an exciting program to provide condos and even furnishings to a few lucky, well-publicized households of supporters who win a kind of lottery. You enlist in a program called "Grand Housing Mission Venezuela", reports the Wall Street Journal, "and are given a receipt and put on a waiting list. The slip reminds recipients that "Only in socialism are you guaranteed the right to a worthy home."
That doesn't mean you actually get a worthy home, of course, but you do get a "guarantee". In the U.S. we have a whole host of new programs that have taken effect just before the election, from immigration to housing.
Likewise, in Venezuela the government is proud of its voting system, relying as it does on fingerprint ID. Some voters think that the fingerprints make the ballots traceable. In the U.S., the government frowns on voter ID, but also has been slow to get ballots out to servicemen for some reason.
Huge amounts of oil money have poured into the Venezuela government and out to favored programs. The promised improvements in infrastructure and education haven't happened, however. But the nightly news carries thrilling stories of happy Chavez backers who are doing very well. For the others there is a receipt and a guarantee.
The Venezuela election is coming right up, October 7.