Disasters are awful useful. In Venezuela and Colombia, presidents have used flooding as a pretext for implementing
18 months of decree power. While this is usually portrayed as absolute dictatorial power, as I understand it’s essentially a fast-track authority, allowing the executive to write laws and present them for an up-or-down vote in the legislature, rather than going through the usual parliamentary process. In Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez’s PSUV party will have a majority of the seats in the new legislature taking over in January, that effectively means that the president’s ideas will become law for 18 months. In Colombia, the decree power lasts for a month, according to the always-useful Hemispheric Briefs. (Unsurprisingly I hadn’t even read about Colombia going to decree power except on that blog. O Vennietrans o Vennietrans, how tempting are thy snarkfests.)
To me, the most surprising use of a natural disaster to justify a head of government’s ideology is the one revealed today in Chile, where the government wants to sell off the public sector’s remaining shares in the country’s water companies to raise money for earthquake relief. Now, this justification may sound reasonable, but you have to wonder — if Chile needs to sell off infrastructure to pay for disaster repairs now, with copper at its highest price since the time of the Inca, imagine what it would be like with copper at $3, or $2, or $1 a pound.
UPDATE: I was thinking about how Chile supposedly has this huge “rainy day fund” in case of emergency. For some reason, that reminded me of this.