Foreign investment has plunged, scared off by nationalizations. A huge disparity between the official and black-market exchange rates has encouraged get-rich-quick schemes for favored “Chávistas” while erecting endless barriers to trade. Price controls on staples have made eggs unavailable. This week, you can’t find chickens. Chávez’s socialism delivers subsidized gasoline and glittering malls but no milk.
The World Bank’s recently released “Doing Business 2008,” a ranking of the ease of conducting commerce, places Venezuela 172nd out of 178 countries.
Despite this, the country does huge business with the United States, as its fourth-largest crude oil supplier and a big importer. Chávez’s “socialism” and his chumminess with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad do not extend to cutting off the “imperialist empire.” Chávez is too shrewd to sever his lifeline.