It’s a shame, because Venezuela is a beautiful country. However,
both stuff and freedom are in short supply and
there appears to be more interest in stuff than in freedom,
My wife and I arrived at a splendid marina, Mare Mares in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela in (as I now recall) November of 1996 and remained there until we sailed to the island of Bonaire about a year later. We generally returned to Venezuela — a pleasant overnight sail with the wind from abeam — every six months or so to stock up on booze and fuel at very low prices. We then often explored inland for several weeks. Later, we lived in Puerto Cabello (aka Puerto la Grunge), while the Venezuelan Navy worked on our sailboat. Since we were stuck in Puerto Cabello for several months, we took advantage of the situation and did more touring inland. The prices at the navy base were not bad but the workmanship was grossly incompetent; nearly everything that we had done there had to be ripped out and replaced when we got to Cartagena, ; the work done there was of exceptionally good quality and less expensive than at the Venezuelan Navy base.
While the Venezuelan countryside is beautiful and the people were generally pleasant, we saw the consequences of an extremely poor “education” system. A Venezuelan friend (an attorney and fellow sailor) suggested that the incompetence of the system was intentional. Learning was generally by rote and even then I sensed that most Venezuelans were more favorably disposed toward stuff than toward freedom; there were exceptions, but few. A difference between then and now is that then they had more stuff as well as more freedom than now.
Recently, criminal violence — not a significant problem except in the barrios — when and where we were, often in Caracas, has increased. This video is about a year old; the situation continues to worsen
Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela in 1999 and continued until his death in 2013. Beginning as rather a moderate, he became a whimsical if not insane dictator over time. I wrote about that here and here. This photo summarizes the situation.
This cartoon also makes the point. Venezuelans, who have been unable to buy even barely minimal quantities of toilet tissue for months, have about as many freedoms as they have pieces of toilet tissue. While in some cases they could use newspapers, newsprint has become very scarce.
Barinas-based newspaper De Frente on Monday informed readers it had run out of newsprint and stopped printing for a few days. The paper returned to newsstands Thursday, but its publisher says it only has enough inventories to print for another week.
It’s the fifth regional newspaper to stop printing since July as 50 percent inflation and restrictions on dollar purchases to stave off devaluation make it difficult to import paper and other basic supplies. Even better-financed national publications have had to reduce page count and number of copies sold.
Might they use the Venezuelan “strong Bolivar?” It’s not much more valuable than toilet tissue or newsprint
All of the above brings us to a November 9th post by my favorite Venezuelan blogger still living there, Daniel Duquenal (nom de plume), who posts at Venezuela News and Views. The article is titled Desperation News and Views and the lede is as follows:
So what is a regime that got handed the news of 5% inflation for a single month, whose main “evil” opposition leader is received by the Pope, when a “spontaneous” multigathering protest is convoked for today, that cannot hide the increasing low key riots for food, to do? It decides to sack a major electronic store chain.
Maduro ordered yesterday to seize the 5 stores of Daka, an overpriced, but then they all are, electronic/appliance chain. Allegedly the stores will be forced to recalculate their “costs” and sell all their appliances at “just price”. We assume of course that the militia and Nazional Guard in charge of the organized semilooting will be served first. Maybe even for free. Which does not stop a country of “lambucios, from the regime or the opposition, to rush to the store to take a turn in the line and be the first ones to shop when they open again. Maduro conoce su ganado we would say in Venezuela, Maduro knows his cattle.
Please read the entire sad story.
Will the situation get better anytime soon or continue to worsen? Perhaps Zeus knows, but I don’t.
The new Venezuelan Ministry for Supreme Happiness seems unlikely to help unless it plans to disband the Government and deport all Cuban “advisers.” Although that seems quite unlikely, it is probably about the only possible source of even a modicum of happiness, let alone “supreme happiness,” for most Venezuelans. The author of the linked article suggests,
In the latest move by the Maduro Government, the Vice-Presidency for the Supreme Social Happiness of of the Venezuelan people was created this week. While many have laughed at the idea, I disagree. I think this office was badly needed and will play an important role in celebrating life in Venezuela and making its citizens happy.
While there have been no details as to what the office will do, I can think of so many ways that it can celebrate and promote the happiness of all Venezuelans, particularly by pointing out happy events around the country, of which there are so many.
As an example, the Vice-Ministry could make sure to interview on TV anyone who managed to buy a package of corn flour, which has become one of the supreme moments of any Venezuelan’s life in the the last few months. And even if you think that finding toilet paper is another such happy moment, the Vice-Ministry could celebrate not only the finding of the roll of toilet paper by those citizens that lacked it, but more importantly recreate the moment of supreme happiness that represents using it for the first time after not having any for a while.
That might help if at this point anything can. Still, I suspect that there will be even more “supreme” unhappiness until something better comes along. Strangely, stories of ObamaCare and losses of medical insurance coverage in the U.S. come unbidden to mind. I wonder why.
The anarchy will continue until morale improves.
Starting last night, people gathered around the stores of these two companies to participate in the “piñata” creating fights, some looting and even shots were fired as the free for all began. While in some stores order was maintained by the police and the National Guard, in others, people left without paying.
And it was a free for all in some cases, as customers broke windows, took stuff without paying and authorities and “pueblo”, both opposition and chavistas, participated in this obscene act, which shows how low the country has come. One has to wonder whether Maduro was losing grip of the situation with his actions, which will certainly lead to shortages for appliances in short order.
Looting in Valencia, Venezuela — tip of the hat to Venezuela News and Views.