Archive for January 10th, 2015

Venezuela Goes From Bizarre To Bizarro

January 10, 2015

The word bizarre is no longer enough to describe what has been going n in Venezuela in the last few days. As the country was expecting for the much needed economic measures to be announced, instead, President Maduro announces that he is going on a trip. As he leaves, the usual shortages seeing in the country in the last two years intensify to the level of being widespread with long lines everywhere.

The solution? In a country with the second highest homicide rate, the Government sends the military and the police to supermarkets and stores, as there are threats of looting reported by social media, while stores ban picture taking in their locales, under pressure by Government officials. This only increases tensions, as people are arrested for protesting and complaining in lines. Meanwhile, it turns out that Maduro took his family sightseeing to China on Government planes, which only irks people more.

As tensions rise, with the threat of social unrest quite real and explosive, Maduro does not return to Venezuela but continues to Teheran, where he made this statement, talking about Iranian pharmaceuticals, tourism between the two countries and saying that everything in Venezuela is normal and this is all the fault of the opposition trying to make a big deal out of nothing

This simply echoes what his Ministers have been saying in Caracas for days. The leader of the farce is the Minister for Feeding Carlos Osorio who went as far as saying that the lines are there because people have stuff to buy in the stores. Then why do they create a rule that people must have a Venezuelan ID card to buy stuff?

This is Osorio in a store trying to calm the people down, as you can see there are not that many chickens left and the people just overwhelm him, rushing to get the last chickens.

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And lest you think that the lines are localized, the website http://www.runrun.es did an interactive map showing how the huge lines were widespread from West to East in Caracas, independent of the standard of living of the people in the neighborhood.

In Maracaibo the best idea is to write numbers of people on their arms to certify your location in the line.

B7A3Ur5CYAADRt7And people put up with it, as long as they can have some hope of getting the food they are seeking. Of course, the People’s Ombudsman, called the People’s Defender, says nothing about this, Human Rights be damned, they have been suspended in Venezuela for too long already.

And the lines are not only widespread, but also huge. This was the Government’s Bicentenario Supermarket in Plaza Venezuela this morning:

B66l3p7IQAAyRAmThis was taken from afar, not only to attempt to get the magnitude of the line, something never seen in Venezuela EVER (before or after Chavismo), but also because if you take pictures up close you can be detained. Like this reporter in Valencia (Andres Abreu @Andresabreu) being searched by the glorious Bolivarian National Guard for taking pictures of the lines in Valencia.

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And Abreu showed us how, when the lines became embarrassingly long, they moved the people inside:

B7A8ovNIgAEEAHFThe whole thing has become so ridiculous that this guy (His name is Rafael, he builds kites with anti-Government sayings all the time) was detained for going to the line with a kite saying: “I will get in line like a “pendejo” (idiot) so I can find food”

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Never mind the guarantees of free speech in the 2000 Venezuelan Constitution written by Chavismo. As if this was not enough, the Vice-President, who has the charisma of a featureless rock, says on TV that there are plenty of empty cells in Ramo Verde, where Leopoldo Lopez is being held, for those that dare to use political violence to upset the peace of the Republic. When pressured these guys can’t hide their fascists streak. Fascist is, fascist says.

The result is that people are really pissed in Venezuela today. At Maduro, at the military, at the cops, at the supermarkets and their owners, at scarcity and at all the lies they keep feeding them in Government media.

But Chavismo thinks that a President with 20% popularity can continue getting away with blaming the opposition for all the problems. Because this is not going away anytime soon. Price controls, exchange controls, absurd economic policies are coming home to roost. What is going on, is a reflection of the lack of foreign currency, for a Government used to solving supply problems with massive imports of scarce items. Except that the too many items are now scarce, national production has been decimated and the biggest scarcity is that of foreign currency. And neither the Chinese, nor the Russians, nor the Iranians, will give Maduro much at this time.

And Maduro was really wasting his time in Saudi Arabia, rather than being in Venezuela facing and dealing with the real problems. He was not only undiplomatic, but also stupid, making this statement right before going to visit the Saudis. You don’t make a statement against your host, right before arriving to visit him. The Saudis have been repeatedly been very clear as to their intent to let the price of oil fall, come what may. I am sure the Saudis were nor precisely happy with Maduro aligning himself with their enemy to object the Saudi stance on oil production cuts. Maduro learned little while being Chavez’ Foreign Minister for seven years.

And you really have to wonder if Maduro is so out of touch, or somebody or a group of somebodies is setting a trap up for him, telling him things are normal. Very few times have i felt Venezuela so close to turmoil and social unrest. Maduro is playing with fire and now reportedly he will not be back until Wednesday, as he continues touring OPEC countries in a hopeless cause. Who advised him to do it? How can he hope to get anything out of this, while things are almost out of control in Venezuela?

In November I said that I feared we may be going into a period of chaos, unless the Government wants to use brutal repression to stop it. All signs point to that concern becoming a reality, but I would hate it to be the case. By now, even if the Maduro Government were to make the right decisions, it could take weeks for things to go back to normal. But either Maduro is more limited than I thought, or someone has been setting a trap for him ever since he was elected in 2013.

And thus Venezuela has gone from being bizarre to bizarro, but where this all leads to is quite tricky and dangerous. With millions (yes, millions) of guns floating around the country and a disgruntled and hungry population, civil unrest and chaos could break out at any time.

After that, it is anybody’s guess.

(And dont forget to think of contributions to the previous post)