May 23, 2017

WILL NO ONE RID ME OF THIS MEDDLESOME REGIME? Venezuela’s paradox: People are hungry, but farmers can’t feed them.

With cash running low and debts piling up, Venezuela’s socialist government has cut back sharply on food imports. And for farmers in most countries, that would present an opportunity.

But this is Venezuela, whose economy operates on its own special plane of dysfunction. At a time of empty supermarkets and spreading hunger, the country’s farms are producing less and less, not more, making the caloric deficit even worse.

Drive around the countryside outside the capital, Caracas, and there’s everything a farmer needs: fertile land, water, sunshine and gasoline at 4 cents a gallon, cheapest in the world. Yet somehow families here are just as scrawny-looking as the city-dwelling Venezuelans waiting in bread lines or picking through garbage for scraps.

Having attempted for years to defy conventional economics, the country now faces a painful reckoning with basic arithmetic.

“Last year I had 200,000 hens,” said Saulo Escobar, who runs a poultry and hog farm here in the state of Aragua, an hour outside Caracas. “Now I have 70,000.”

As the wise man once said, “Get the hell out of my way!”

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