When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Adios Populism! Cleaning Up Ruins Left By Maduro And Kirchner

Falling revenues, dire financial conditions and voter exasperation have curbed populist-socialist power in Venezuela and Argentina. The opponents have their work cut out for them.

Maduro and Kirchner at a 2013 summit of South American leaders.
Maduro and Kirchner at a 2013 summit of South American leaders.
Danilo Arbilla


BOGOTÁ The recent triumph of the Venezuelan opposition in parliamentary elections was good news. Better still was the voting public's resounding rebuke of the ruling system and the likes of President Nicolás Maduro, parliamentary Speaker Diosdado Cabello — a man of highly dubious reputation — and Tibisay Lucena, a loyalist appointed head of the electoral authority.

Other news that has received less attention is the continued drop in the price of Venezuelan crude, which fell last week to just over $34 a barrel. But these two bits of news are related.

You can blame Maduro for many things, but perhaps his worst feat was prompting nostalgia for his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, through his own mismanagement skills that have led to the country's deterioration. Not that Chavez was really any better. He wouldn't have gotten much farther than Maduro with current oil prices, and without oil prices having hovered around $120 to $130 a barrel during his time in office.

With that much cash, you can buy almost anything, even charisma. You can buy arms and warships from Spain and the United States, negotiate favorable business terms for companies with the friendly Lula government in Brazil, sign big deals with China, Iran and Russia — whose scope and consequences have yet to be fully revealed — provide cheap oil to needy Central American states or pick up the tab for dysfunctional companies, from Costa Rica to Uruguay.

At $38 a barrel, Chávez and Maduro would likely be in the same predicament. So the terrible legacy Venezuelans face today is bequeathed by two presidents, not one, and a system they installed. That system remains in power, even after the recent election defeat.

The opposition now has an arduous path ahead and must remain united in order to progress. Chavismo is not overcome, only badly injured. It is ensconced in its power den, sharpening its claws. In this setting, the opposition must maintain the unity that brought it to victory.

Hanging on

Generally, the populist and authoritarian regimes that call themselves progressive are loathe to leave power. That's in keeping with their doctrine, but also because they fear returning to the bottom of the heap or being held to account.

The conduct of outgoing Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is a perfect example. To begin with, she has thwarted the transition of the incoming government, denying it critical administrative information. Incoming President Mauricio Macri doesn't know what he'll find once he takes office. And in recent weeks, Kirchner has rushed to appoint some 20 ambassadors and hundreds of civil servants, and run up debts the new government must pay in coming months. She even refused to participate in the traditional handover ceremony in the presidential palace.

It is an almost ridiculous attitude that may corroborate popular hearsay about Kirchner's mental health. Meanwhile, her supporters are urging resistance, seeking a remedy for their falling numbers in zealotry.

Like her ideological peers in the region, Kirchner is finding it hard to step down. This lot won't leave before they have trashed the place! And that, after years of failing to make good use of the enormous revenues from a unique period of high demand for their export commodities. They could have invested the money — instead of spending it to win political votes, feed their egos and finance extravagant social programs with eminently electoral motives. Expect also an increasing number of revelations about leaders, senior politicians, their partisans and relatives personally enriching themselves.

The pseudo-progressive ideology is on its way out because the cash ran dry and people are exasperated. But make no mistake, they are not giving up. They will bide their time, hoping people have short memories and will be disoriented by their day-to-day problems. And then, right on time, they will resume their perennial discourse of bombast and bleeding hearts.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGOTikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest