To understand Sudan’s defiance toward the world, especially the Western world, check out the Ozone Café.
Here young, rich Sudanese, wearing ripped jeans and fancy gym shoes, sit outside licking scoops of ice cream as an outdoor air-conditioning system sprays a cooling veil of mist. Around the corner is a new BMW dealership unloading $165,000 cars.
“I tell people you only live this life once,” said Nada Gerais, a saleswoman.
While one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises continues some 600 miles away in Darfur, across Khartoum bridges are being built, office towers are popping up, supermarkets are opening and flatbed trucks hauling plasma TV’s fight their way through thickening traffic.
Despite the image of Sudan as a land of cracked earth and starving people, the economy is booming, with little help from the West. Oil has turned it into one of the fastest growing economies in Africa — if not the world — emboldening the nation’s already belligerent government and giving it the wherewithal to resist Western demands to end the conflict in Darfur.
Why do I bring it up? To underscore a couple of things.
First, how murderously easy it is for petrostates to finance a consumption boom in the middle of an oil bonanza. It really doesn't matter how criminal or incompetent the government is: even Sudan's modest 500,000 barrels/day are enough to finance a major economic boom when oil prices shoot up. You don't need a coherent development strategy, an actual plan for the future, or even a minimally functioning institutional system...all you need is oil.
Second, just how much petrostates can get away with when oil is in short supply. So long as oil is scarce, there's virtually no limit to what the international community will overlook in its thirst for it. We think the Tascon List is going to spark international outrage? These people are orchestrating a no-kidding genocide, and the international community still queue up to line their pockets. Let the good times roll.
Things for Rosalistas to ponder. A perfect candidate running a perfect campaign would still have a hard time beating Chavez in the middle of an oil boom. And what we have is far from a perfect candidate and far from a perfect campaign.