One last thing on this Rivas piece: when government supporters are backed into a corner in trying to defend Chavez's economic record, sooner or later they'll turn around and blame the opposition - especially the strike. "See! It's your fault!" they'll say.
Sigh. It's true, as far as it goes. The strike was terribly damaging economically. That's the reason I opposed it.
But once you start playing the blame game like that, you get farther from a constructive answer, not closer. Ultimately, it's neither the government nor the opposition that's to blame. It's the fight between the government and the opposition that's to blame. It's the two-bulls fighting each other in a china shop effect. So long as you're playing the blame game, you're contributing to that fight, and to the problem.
If there's one thing that's been drilled into my head in my doctoral program is that a fluid, trusting, cooperative relationship between the public and the private sectors is one of the most important determinants of long run economic development. When firms trust the government, when they see the government as an ally, when goverment makes their concerns its concerns, when the two make an effort to work together towards a common goal, then development can start to happen. In fact, a good number of the researchers I'm studying see the extent, fluidity and ease of public-private interactions as one of the key explanatory variables in development.
Because development is a positive-sum game, and it can only happen when stakeholders on both the private and the public sectors see it as a positive-sum game, and cooperate accordingly. The tragedy in Venezuela, the underlying reason for the crisis, is that the political atmosphere has deteriorated to such an extent that public-private cooperation and partnership is impossible. The sides spend their time and energy blaming each other, shouting at each other, writing long blog entries to villify one another, instead of trying to work together towards a common goal. That's the tragedy.
The task now is to build an institutional structure where such routine cooperation is possible. It won't be easy. So long as Chavez is in power, it won't be possible.