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Out of the agony?

May 4, 2016

Here’s an editorial in last Sunday’s Washington Post that talks about many of the things I’ve mentioned in my posts about Venezuela over the last three years. (My emphasis below.)

We ignore Venezuela’s imminent implosion at our peril

The encouraging news from Latin America is that the leftist populists who for 15 years undermined the region’s democratic institutions and wrecked its economies are being pushed out — not by coups and juntas, but by democratic and constitutional means. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina is already gone, vanquished in a presidential election, and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff is likely to be impeached in the coming days.

The tipping point is the place where the movement began in the late 1990s: Venezuela, a country of 30 million that despite holding the world’s largest oil reserves has descended into a dystopia where food, medicine, water and electric power are critically scarce. Riots and looting broke out in several blacked-out cities last week, forcing the deployment of troops. A nation that 35 years ago was the richest in Latin America is now appealing to its neighbors for humanitarian deliveries to prevent epidemics and hunger.

The regime that fostered this nightmare, headed by Hugo Chávez until his death in 2013, is on the way out: It cannot survive the economic crisis and mass discontent it has created. The question is whether the change will come relatively peacefully or through an upheaval that could turn Venezuela into a failed state and destabilize much of the region around it. […]

And today I came across a post at Business Insider, featuring this photo. (Hambre means hunger.)

hambre-en-venezuela

‘We want out of this agony’: What it’s like to eat in a country that’s on the verge of collapse

Despite breathless coverage of Venezuela’s vanishing supply of condoms, toilet paper, and beer, perhaps the country’s most debilitating shortage has been that of food, which appears to be a motivating factor for growing antigovernment sentiment.

“I want the recall because I don’t have food,” one woman told the Venezuelan commentary site Contrapunto, referring to a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro that has so far reportedly drawn more than a million signatures in support.

“We want out of this agony — there is too much need in the streets,” another woman told Contrapunto. “We have much pressure because there is no food and every day we have to ask ourselves what we are going to eat.”

Government supporters have long pointed proudly to the improvement in eating under socialist leader Hugo Chavez, who used oil income to subsidize food for the poor during his 14 years in office (1999 to 2013) and won UN plaudits for it.

But Reuters notes that Maduro, Chavez’s successor, has faced a collapse in the price of oil, which provides almost all of Venezuela’s foreign income. He has also blamed an opposition-led “economic war,” which critics deride as an excuse.

Living in a severe recession and a dysfunctional state-run economy, poorer families say they sometimes skip meals and rely more on starch foods, Reuters reports.

“We are eating worse than before,” Liliana Tovar, a Caracas resident, told Reuters in late April. “If we eat breakfast, we don’t eat lunch, if we eat lunch, we don’t eat dinner, and if we eat dinner, we don’t eat breakfast.”

As Scott Adams said, "When one person doesn’t understand economics, we call it ignorance. When millions don’t, we call it a political movement."

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