Friday, June 24, 2016

According to The Nation magazine Venezuela is "fucked" but not in the grip of a humanitarian crisis.

I'm glad that yesterday the Organization of American States rejected Venezuelan opposition lobbying for expulsion and sanctions against their own country. I felt that a vote against Venezuela under the rubric of the "Democratic Charter" could lead to actual military intervention, something that would not help Venezuela or its people.

Jeff Bezos, billionaire owner of The Washington Post and Hillary Clinton inner circle member and Alvaro Uribe recently hardliner right-wing president of Colombia have pushed for just this and oppositionist money grubber president of Venezuela's National Assembly Henry Ramos Allup has lobbied the United States Senate's Cuban Caucus as well.

Everyone who follows the news knows that Venezuela is in a serious crisis of shortages of food, medicine, medical equipment and thing necessary to keep the economy going like truck and bus tires, batteries and spare parts. It's easy to sympathize with calls for international humanitarian aid. Looking at history, for example recent events in Haiti which has been under foreign "humanitarian" occupation it's not difficult to understand the government’s reluctance to allow a humanitarian airlift of necessities into Venezuela.  The question of who would control the distribution of this aid isn't usually mentioned but today I saw

Bernardo Álvarez Herrera, a
mbassador, Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the OAS state on  television that Venezuela would accept "unconditional aid and is negotiating receiving aid front Trinidad and Jamaica.

Venezuelan's family and friends say that packages going to specific Venezuelans are being blocked by Venezuela’s Customs officials.

Churches and the Venezuelan community in Florida, which is predominantly anti government, are trying to get aid packages to Venezuelans.

It's understandable then, that opponents of intervention wish to combat what they see as exaggeration of the crisis. 

They (myself included) don't want to hear "we destroyed Venezuela in order to save it." A large section of the American people would enjoy a TV show featuring bombs destroying neighborhoods in order to assure the people there are getting enough to eat. This would be offset by images of US Marines giving out chewing gum and lollipops. Also, they (and myself) don't want to see the government’s credibility and authority undermined in favor of Venezuela's old regime opposition which offers no solutions of its own to the crisis and already lied to Venezuela’s increasingly desperate people last December, when they promised that if they win majority control of the National Assembly the crisis would be eased in six months. The opposition is fragmented and distrusted, while the government is widely disliked probably riven with hidden factions  and distrusted.

And so US progressive and anti interventionist Gabriel Hetland took to the pages of The Nation magazine

Hetland sings a simple (and merry) song about a government official who's getting excellent care of a sprained hand in a government clinic. He claims that the clinics are working normally. I was in Venezuela from November 2014 until February 2015.
Let me tell you a story about something that is happening now in a government hospital on a city I won't name in Venezuela.  Theres a father to be running around from one place to another getting a supper together for a mother to be who's been hospitalized. For months she's not been gaining weight though pregnant. She even started to lose weight.  She got a check up and was found to be anemic.  Her aunt who lives in New York City came to bring vitamin and mineral supplements for her, a pregnant neighbor and several relatives, children, who were not thriving.

Yesterday she started bleeding badly. Her spouse got her to the nearest free public hospital, as they have not much money or insurance.

The hospital doesn't feed the patients. The future father had to buy hypodermic needles and other equipment at a nearby pharmacy. He brought her a scant meal of coffee and an arepa with black beans. The nurses demanded he go back out to fetch something for them, they being hungry. So far it looks like mother and six month fetus are going to make it. He'll be coming three times a day to bring what food he finds to share with the mother to be and the nurses.

Monday, June 13, 2016

What's the food and medicine situation in Venezuela?

It's been too long since I've written a post about Venezuela.  Every time I start it seems something new is happening.  Yesterday there was a riot in La Vega, a working class district in Caracas. It was about food and people fired guns at National Guard troops (a cross between riot squad, border patrol and army light infantry). 

Things are not good and they're not getting better.  Most Venezuelans do not have enough to eat, in an oil and mineral rich country governed by people who call themselves socialists. The food shortages started in 2013 soon after the death of President Hugo Chavez when oil, the mainstay of the economy was selling at $100 a barrel. Since then then the price crashed to around $21 a barrel and is now hovering around  $40 per barrel. 


I was pretty amend angry when I made this video a few days ago and I'm angrier now.

Some of you know my wife is Venezuelan and has family there, people who I spent three months with during the winter of 2014 - 2015. I saw first hand the disconnect between the actual lives of Venezuelans and the Cheerful Charlie reports on state TV and websites purporting to express solidarity with Venezuela  ( and presumably it's people.)

Venezuela is a Bizarro sort of place. People who don't have enough to eat have cell phones with Facebook and Whatsapp, so we stay in touch. My wife's people are just short of absolutely desperate. My wife spent a week there after bringing vitamin and mineral pills to her people, two of whom were pregnant, losing weight and anemic.

So when my wife saw Eva Golinger minimize the problem on RT she nearly flipped out.

Poor Venezuelans rummage for edible garbage in Barquisimeto. 

This photograph was taken in a supermarket in New York City during the hurricane Katrina crisis in 2011. It was first published as "illustrative" of a food crisis in Venezuela in 2013. In 2013 the price of petroleum was still over $100 a barrel.  There were nuisance type food shortages at that time. A shopper might be looking for pasta, for example, but have to settle for rice. Since then the shortages have reached crisis proportions, even if opponents of the government have been exaggerating the situation for years.

It's true that people with enough money can have fruits and vegetables. The problem is that most Venezuelans don't have much money. 60% of Venezuelans are working in the formal economy. 40% of those workers earn minimum wage. 22 minimum wages can buy enough food  (excluding all other expenses ) for five people.

These are official Central Bank import figures for Venezuela. Note that Venezuela imports most of its food. In 2007 27,670,659 Venezuelans consumed 570,000 tons of meat. That's around 19 kilos each. In 2015  31,495,633 Venezuelans supposedly consume 590,000 tons of meat. That's around 17 kilos.  But these numbers don't tell the story. A gigantic portion of the subsidized imports, around a third according to President Maduro was beingsmuggled out of the country,  mainly to Colombia  The official and legal border crossings have been closed for months. Yet I can report that family members who live in the border states of Tachira and Zulia  are, like their neighbors, in desperate search for food, especially protein rich food, and that meat and other food is now resmuggled from Venezuela to Colombia then back to Venezuela at prices most cannot afford. 

There is a new plan, announced by President Maduro,  called CLAP, under which the community councils and communes are bringing bags of food door to door. Rioters in Caracas haven't noticed them yet. Residents far from Caracas, in that country some elitists call "Weeds and snakes" ( something like "flyover country"), in Tachira and Zulia and doubtlessly other places too, are awaiting that knock on the door and the appearance of some friendly communards with some much needed eggs, flour and pasta.

As long as the Government and Opposition agree that paying the debt comes first above all else things can only get worse.