[T]o truly appreciate what the Bolivarian socialist [Hugo Chávez] has done to a once-prosperous country awash in oil, we must go beyond his vitriolic anti-U.S. rants, his attacks on democracy, and his disastrous economic policies. Here are four things you must know to understand (a) how the Chávez regime has survived this long and (b) where Venezuela might be headed:Chávez also has mismanaged the economy, creating shortages, imposing price controls, and threatening more nationalization.
(1). The regime is financially dependent on China.
The combination of a ruined private economy and profligate government spending has utterly wrecked Venezuelan public finances. While the country still collects sizable oil revenues, Chávez has badly mismanaged Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state-owned energy giant, which is slowly crumbling. . .
Enter China, which has been pouring money into the Venezuelan oil sector. Moreover, under various "oil for credit" deals signed with Beijing, Chávez has secured a whopping $32 billion of low-interest Chinese loans. According to a Wall Street Journal report last week, the Chinese government had loaned Venezuela $20.8 billion through mid-April, and daily Venezuelan oil shipments to China under the agreements now total roughly 400,000 barrels. . .
(2). The regime is run partly by Cubans. . .
The cash-strapped Castro government desperately needs Venezuelan oil subsidies, so it is desperate to keep Chávez in power. Hence the influx of Cuban "advisers" working to strengthen his Bolivarian revolution. Caracas is now persecuting retired Gen. Antonio Rivero for decrying the Cubanization of the Venezuelan military.
By giving Cuban officials such important roles in Venezuela’s security apparatus, Chávez has done two things: First, he has brought in trained Communists with a wealth of experience running a dictatorship. Second, he has given Havana significant influence over Venezuelan government operations -- as long as he remains in power. . .
(3). The regime’s senior military allies are complicit in the drug trade.
To date, the U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned three top Venezuelan generals for having links to drug trafficking: Cliver Alcalá, a prominent army commander; Hugo Carvajal, the military intelligence chief; and Henry Rangel Silva, the defense minister. All three are devoted chavistas, whereas many other Venezuelan military officials have grown estranged from Chávez. When Alcalá was added to the Treasury blacklist a few months ago, Univision reporter Casto Ocando noted that he stood out as "one of the few military figures that still has the confidence of the Venezuelan president." . . .
(4). The regime has trained thousands of pro-government paramilitary fighters, who represent a serious long-term threat to domestic peace and stability.
Call them the Venezuelan Revolutionary Guards: Chávez has established a militia comparable to the famous Iranian outfit that is sworn to defend theocratic rule. Earlier this year, a presidential decree brought these Venezuelan paramilitary fighters under Chávez’s direct command; it also gave them officers who are independent of the army. According to an analysis of captured FARC computer files by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the Venezuelan paramilitaries have received direct training from Colombia’s biggest terror group. "FARC communications also discussed providing training in urban terrorism methods for representatives of the Venezuelan Communist Party and several radical cells from 23 de Enero, a Caracas slum that has long been a hive of pro-Chávez activity," as the New York Times has reported.
Of course, America still has no Venezuelan policy--instead forcing the Venezuelan opposition to appeal to the International Criminal Court. Good luck.