Indeed, today inflation in Venezuela, at 30 percent, is the highest in Latin America. The credit markets also rate it among the highest risks globally to default on its debts.
Is there anything to these criticisms in your view?
Stone: Today’s inflation does hurt the middle class most. And that is a problem. At the same time, let’s put it in perspective: inflation in Venezuela was more than 100 percent in 1996, two years before Chávez was first elected. Inflation hurts the poor less under Chávez because they now have subsidized housing, education, and healthcare.
As for the concern about Chávez’s personalist authoritarian rule in the stead of Juan Peron, former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner raises the issue in the film. He said, “I like Hugo as a friend, but I advise him that he should have 20 Hugos to succeed him instead of hanging on.”
That is an issue.
If you ask Hugo, he will say that “I’d love to be president until 2020, a third term to consolidate my changes.” In his view, he wants one more term – which a referendum the country voted on has now allowed – because Venezuela needs sustained attention to change a very screwed up country.
But after that, he has said to me, “I want out. I’ll take my pension and go back to live a comfortable life in my village.”
Hugo Chávez is not a rich man. He hasn’t made a dime while being in power. He hasn’t been corrupted.
True, members of the Chavista movement have been involved in corruption as they moved into the system. There is mismanagement. There is a lack of competent personnel. There are shortages. Supplies of food sit there rotting for lack of efficient distribution – always an issue in socialist or quasi-socialist administrations. There are complaints about the corruption of the judiciary, just as there were before Chávez. He can’t control them.