Maduro responded over the weekend by declaring a 60-day state of emergency
People have been saying Venezuela is on the verge of collapse for years, but its been a slow burn.
Now, the nation that economist Steven Hanke has called “the most miserable country in the world” for two years running is really starting to show signs that it is running out of cash. The Venezuelan government says it has imported thousands of tons of basic foodstuffs and will begin distributing them through communal councils directly to family homes. President Nicolas Maduro has accused private food production companies and supermarkets of hoarding food for speculation.
Unemployed construction worker Roberto Sanchez could hear a time bomb ticking as he waited in line with 300 people outside a grocery store this week, hoping that corn meal or rice might be delivered later in the afternoon.
He fears that Venezuela could explode at any minute into political and economic chaos.
“We have no food. They are cutting power four hours a day. Crime is soaring. And (President Nicolás) Maduro blames everyone but himself for the mess we find ourselves in,” said Sanchez, 36. “We can’t go on like this forever. Something has to give.”
The question is what will give first. As the economy spirals into deeper disarray, protests aimed at driving the unpopular president out of office are growing. Maduro responded over the weekend by declaring a 60-day state of emergency
But, to the fury of the long line of people waiting out front, the cargo wasn’t unloaded. Instead soldiers took it away. The clubbing districts of Las Mercedes and San Ignacio in Caracas are as packed as ever, despite the economic crisis gripping Venezuela. But there is one notable difference: a lack of Polar beer. Empresas Polar SA, the country’s largest food and beverage company, has halted beer production because, it says in a statement on its website, it cannot obtain the foreign currency it needs to purchase malted barley. “The state of emergency isn’t improving anything. It is not making us eat better. There is only the black market and it is too expensive … this economic model of regulations is only making us poor, without any groceries, and hungry,” she says.
Opposition legislator Julio Borges announced the measure on Thursday, which would allow the legislature to push for more imports on basic food goods and inspect government-owned food companies to ensure they are meeting efficiency standards. “This will make corporations and expropriated lands produce food again, will simplify the process of national and foreign investment, and establish incentives for investors,” Borges promised.
Socialist party members are arguing that the decree goes beyond the scope of the power of the legislature and cannot override the executive decree President Nicolás Maduro put into motion in January, which declared an “economic emergency” and allowed the government to further intervene in private corporations. Venezuela’s Supreme Court extended the viability of the emergency decree this week, in a move many consider an attempt to keep the opposition legislature from asserting too much power over the food industry in Venezuela.
Socialist legislators also warned that “a food emergency would be an excuse for an American intervention.” While most economic experts attribute Venezuela’s dire economic situation to years of socialist mismanagement and, more recently, the international drop in crude oil prices, Venezuela’s government has long blamed the United States. Most recently, Maduro blamed American officials for allegedly prompting a violent supermarket riot in which the fight for bags of flour
Opposition economists, meanwhile, point at price controls which set prices for basic goods below market rates as causes for the shortages. It already owes China, its latest benefactor, $50 billion. such as raising the price of state-retailed gasoline, now below 1 cent per gallon, and altering a currency exchange system under which the U.S. dollar is worth 150 times more on the black market than it is at the official rate.
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