Ah, November, when a young socialist's fancy turns to consolidating ill-gotten power. The Venezuelan presidential election is coming up this fall, and that means its time to buy some love from the masses! And nothing says lovin' like a pay increase in the oven! Chavez gave government workers a 30% salary increase on May 1 and then followed that up with an equal increase in the minimum wage, meaning Venezuelan wage slaves are now pulling in $372 per month. He argued that maintaining people's spending abilities was more important that getting inflation under control. Of course, this generosity doesn't come without a price. Chavez is now taking bigger pieces of profits from PDVSA to subsidize these efforts, such as 50% of profits at $70 oil and 60% at $110. This means less money to invest in E&P infrastructure in the country, which is already suffering following several international oil companies pulling up stakes and writing off Chavez's unpredictable behavior and economic policies to instead deal with more stable democracies in the region. And the beneficial nature of these actions remain in doubt. Chavez has said that maintaining the spending power of his fellow Venezuelans is more important to him than dealing with his country's rising inflation. Plus his price controls on approximately 400 basic goods has led to food shortages. So basically, Venezuelans have more money to buy nothing. There's a sound economic policy for you. At this rate, Venezuela will be the new Cuba within the next five years. So keep on voting Chavez's party into office, Venezuelan voters! After all, condemned men are expected to dig their own graves. –Stephen Payne, Editor, Oil and Gas Investor This Week; spayne@hartenergy.com