News & Politics

Venezuela: Running out of Food, Gas, Medicine...and Time

Venezuela: Running out of Food, Gas, Medicine...and Time
A militia member stands guard at a private bakery that was taken over by the government in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela has been an economic basket case for more than five years, with predictions of its imminent demise a common sport on the web.

But somehow, someway, the nation manages to stay afloat — although the life vest is full of holes and President Nicolas Maduro is stuffing it with lead weights.

The Venezuelan people have stoically endured the calamity that has befallen their nation — a product of the unconscionable and idiotic policies of their government. But objectively speaking, just how bad is it?

Would you believe Cubans are fleeing Venezuela for a better life?


The economic horror in Venezuela continues to unfold–the Bolivarian socialists have achieved the entirely remarkable feat of making Cubans flee the country in search of a better life. Seriously, Cubans, from a poverty stricken socialist dictatorship are now leaving an oil rich nation in search of a better life. It takes a serious level of economic mismanagement to achieve that. That serious level being exactly the one thing that Venezuela has lots of, of course. So much so that Nicolas Maduro has just appealed to the United Nations to come and organise the supply of medicines for the country. This being something that normal places can manage on their own and usually rather well too.

The cause of all of this is that Maduro, and his predecessor Chavez, decided that the way to run an economy was to do everything that the textbooks say you shouldn’t do to an economy.

If you’re wondering why there hasn’t been a revolution yet, it’s because the government has its jackboot on the neck of its citizens.

In October, the Maduro government abruptly cancelled a recall referendum that could have removed the president from office. Gubernatorial elections scheduled for December have been postponed. Even voting for the leadership of many labour unions, professional organizations, public university governments and neighbourhood councils has been suspended.

For Chavismo, the leftist political movement founded by Chavez and which has ruled Venezuela for the past 18 years, “elections used to be sacred when they knew they could easily win them,” said Eugenio Martínez, a Caracas journalist who specializes in electoral issues. “But as soon as elections became uncomfortable, they have tried to avoid them or to change the rules.”

Venezuelan officials contend that elections are simply not a priority right now because they are dealing with more pressing matters, such as food shortages and triple-digit inflation they describe as part of an “economic war” being waged against them by the opposition.

In a January speech, Diosdado Cabello, a congressman and a key power broker within the ruling PSUV, bluntly stated: “We are not going to have elections…. What we are going to have here is revolution, and more revolution.”


According to Almagro, phobia of elections is just the latest sign of Maduro’s turn toward authoritarianism. His government holds more than 100 political prisoners and has cracked down on the media. It controls nearly all branches of power. Although the opposition holds a majority of seats in congress, the executive branch has neutered that body by using the judicial system to nullify new legislation.

In a column published Tuesday in the Bogota, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo, Almagro declared: “Today… there is a dictatorship” in Venezuela.

No food, can’t get medicine, and those who live in the country with the largest oil reserves on the planet can’t get gas.

Venezuela’s state oil company was rushing to replenish gasoline supplies in various neighborhoods of Caracas on Thursday as drivers lined up at filling stations amid a worsening shortage of fuel.

While Petroleos de Venezuela SA says the situation is normalizing and blamed the lines on transport delays, the opposition says the company has had to reduce costly fuel imports as it tries to preserve cash to pay its foreign debt. Tanker trucks were seen in several neighborhoods of the capital city resupplying filling stations after local newspaper El Nacional reported widespread shortages across the country.

“Yesterday, I went to three filling stations and I couldn’t fill my tank,” Freddy Bautista, a 26-year-old student, said in an interview while waiting outside of a gas station in the Las Mercedes area of eastern Caracas on Thursday. “I’ve been waiting 30 minutes here, and it seems like I’ll be able to fill up today.”

If you’re thinking a military coup could save Venezuela, forget it. Maduro inherited a military whose senior officers are loyal to the regime and ideologically solid. If a coup comes, it will originate with junior officers — a prospect not very likely at this point.

So the people are stuck with a raving lunatic who arrests bakers because of a bread shortage:

In a press release, the National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights said it had charged four people and temporarily seized two bakeries as the socialist administration accused bakers of being part of a broad “economic war” aimed at destabilizing the country.

Well, there’s your problem right there. Any government that employs a “National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights” deserves whatever catastrophe befalls it.


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