Show me the money: Signed checks missing from city treasury in Valencia, Venezuela

Valencia has seen its share of troubles lately from transportation woes to contaminated water. Are the four city checkbooks that went missing, an example of bad governance or bad luck?

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Caracas Chronicles. The views expressed are the author's own.

Valencia has seen its share of troubles lately: The construction of their subway is paralyzed, their drinking water is contaminated with aluminum, their streets are filled with garbage, and the local government is facing a lengthy budget crisis. Could things get even worse for Venezuela’s third city?

Yes. Four City Treasury check books, with 110 signed checks, just went “missing.”

Though the criminal police are already on the case, there are doubts that the checkbooks (worth a million of Bs.F  or a “milliardo” in the old currency) will ever be found, given the fact that the city council refused to discuss the case early on. The public pressure forced them to create a investigative commission. However the president of the council thinks this is only a case of “bank fraud.”

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What’s really going on over there? Is this a streak of bad luck or a small part of a vast Imperialist conspiracy? No. In the end, it’s in part just another example of bad governance, personified in part by current mayor of Valencia, Edgardo Parra. After his unexpected victory in the 2008 election (thanks to an opposition split), he has devoted his time more to harassing local journalists than to solving the problems of the city.

But not all the blame falls on Mr. Parra’s shoulders. Valencia, like other municipalities around the country, is just another victim of a longrunning campaign taken by the central government to drastically curtail their sources of income and their capacity to get things done. The new reform to the Law of the Federal Council of Government (passed by decree, through the Enabling Law) allows the president to create new legal structures and bypass governors and mayors.

In the meantime, Mr. Parra got into a new conflict with the public transportation sector, just to back down days later. But even if he’s defeated at the polls in April of 2013, his successor and the people of Valencia will still face difficult times ahead.

– Gustavo Hernandez Acevedo is a writer for Caracas Chronicles, the place for opposition-leaning-but-not-insane analysis of the Venezuelan political scene since 2002.

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