London–I guess that Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro has nothing better to do, what with his citizens starving, economy in shambles and unrest endemic, but it was just announced that Venezuela has invented a peace prize. Maduro wants to give it to Vladimir Putin.

“There’s Nothing in Venezuela.” Except a Prize for Putin.

Maybe it’s because the Nobel Prize givers awarded theirs to Juan Manuel Santos, president of Venezuela’s neighbor and regional rival, Colombia. Or maybe Maduro would prefer not to talk about Venezuelans scavenging for food and thieves running rampant in all its cities.

Venezuela lived off the fat of high oil prices to finance a socialist state that redistributed money to some of the country’s poor while failing to develop any kind of alternative engines for economic growth. When petroleum prices nosedived two years ago, there was nothing to fuel the so-called Bolivarian Revolution, since the country produced little else. Now there’s nothing to buy–or sell.

Of course, among the many dangers in this situation is that Venezuela, South America’s oldest democracy, might descend into full-fledged authoritarianism. Maduro has managed to delay a referendum that might oust him from power to at least next year–that way, in case he loses, his vice president would take over and Maduro’s party would effectively stay in power. In addition, the electoral commission dominated by his supporters has refused to organize gubernatorial elections scheduled for December, votes that his party are likely to lose.

Maduro explained the delay in a way only a dictator could love: “Holding elections is not the priority. Venezuela’s priority is to recover the economy.”

Don’t hold your breath for the latter to get better. Let’s hope the former survives.

Anyway, Maduro likes Putin mainly because Putin and the US are at odds. Maybe Putin can advise Maduro on how to suppress opposition.

From Jazeera, photos of hunger.

In case you missed it.

The toilet paper metaphor.

Poverty at 80 percent?

But there are winners, here and there.


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