September 24, 2009

Non-Traditional Exports

[In a provocative journal article on Chávez's strategy to project power abroad...]

Javier Corrales says:

If a foreign government or politician accepts Venezuelan aid, what follows is more than just clinics. Recipients are free to use the money as they see fit. Rarely can politicians receive this amount of aid unconditionally. Venezuelan aid, therefore, often functions as a blank check for any type of domestic spending, not necessarily pro-poor spending.

Venezuela has thus developed a new export model. It is not so much the export of war, as Cuba did during the Cold War, or the export of weapons, as Russia still does. It is certainly not the export of technological know-how as OECD countries do or the export of inexpensive manufactures as China does. It’s the export of corruption. Venezuelan aid is billed as investment in social services, but in fact it consists mostly of unaccountable financing of campaigns, unelected social movements, business deals, and even political patronage by state officials. In this era in which elections are fiercely competitive almost everywhere in Latin America, Venezuelan-type aid is irresistible.