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Socialism in Venezeula – Food crisis, humanitarian crisis

It has become clear that the late Hugo Chavez did not bring into being his vision of modern socialism within his country. What happened was far different than the utopia he had imagined. When the price of oil fell to new lows, his monoeconomic structure based on that price of oil sank into new lows with it. Today, the country is in total devastation. This, is unfortunately a painful modern reminder of what happens when a country blows its budget on social programs when its only source of revenue is something that can be so heavily controlled as oil. During the summer of 2008, the price of oil was over $150 a barrel, and times were high in Venezuela. Oil, as of this writing November 17, 2017 is $56.41 per barrel. This means millions of budget shortfalls that cannot be paid. As such, the country has fallen farther and farther into the death spiral of poverty, and starvation.

Today in Venezuela, even the most basic commodities and necessities for life such as soap and sterile gloves, and even toilet paper are now considered luxury items. Basic human needs are being foregone for the promise of a little bit of money to simply fill the emptiness of their bellies. It has devolved into a subsistence level, the basic level of human life on this planet, the level of day to day survival.

Supplies of everything are dwindling in the country as it death-spirals. The country recently exhausted its supply of sugar, making international corporate giant Coca-Cola reconsider their economic ties to the country, which has further deepened the economic crisis in the country.

CBS NEWS
Coca-Cola is halting production in Venezuela of its namesake beverage due to a sugar shortage brought on by the country’s grinding economic crisis.
The Atlanta-based company said in an emailed statement Friday said that its production of sugar-sweetened beverages will be suspended in the coming days after local suppliers reported they had run out of the raw material. Sugar-free beverages are not affected and the company said its offices and distribution centers remain open in Venezuela.

The move comes as Venezuela’s economy is teetering on the edge of collapse with widespread food shortages and inflation forecast to surpass 700 percent.

Inflation is out of control, and is even now skyrocketing:

CNN
Venezuela’s economy shrank 5.7% last year and it’s expected to contract another 8% this year. Inflation has skyrocketed in Venezuela and it could increase nearly 500% in 2016, according to the IMF’s projections. The country’s economy depends on exporting oil. With oil prices still low, the country has been running out of cash reserves to keep the country afloat.

The country continually has to deal with rolling blackouts.

CNN
Government officials announced Thursday [April 21] that they would begin rolling blackouts for 40 days in cities across Venezuela, starting next week. The move will help save power at a time when water levels at the country’s main electric dam are at record lows.
The government says the El Nino weather pattern and drought are to blame. Outside experts say mismanagement and a corrupt government have been the root cause.

“The blackouts are just more evidence of an utterly dysfunctional government,” says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington research group. “This is a government that is not governing.”

It’s quite an irony for Venezuelans to be facing blackouts. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. However, it uses its oil to export to other countries, not to keep the lights on at home.

Officials are already forcing Venezuelans to cut back on energy. They’re feeling the pinch. Glenda Bolivar lives in Caracas, the country’s capital, and she stopped blow drying her hair at her local salon.

“Pretty soon we will only be able to use candles like the old times,” says Bolivar.

Power will go out for four hours per day for 40 days. The country’s electricity minister, Luis Motta Dominguez, said the blackouts could continue beyond 40 days if water levels at the El Guri dam, which provides about 75% of the country’s electricity, keep falling to record lows.

The blackouts aren’t new. President Nicolas Maduro was deeply embarrassed in March when power cut out during a speech broadcast on national television.

The blackouts have most severely affected Venezuela’s hospitals, which has life and death impacts for the people of Venezuela.

NYTIMES
By morning, three newborns were already dead.
The day had begun with the usual hazards: chronic shortages of antibiotics, intravenous solutions, even food. Then a blackout swept over the city, shutting down the respirators in the maternity ward.

Doctors kept ailing infants alive by pumping air into their lungs by hand for hours. By nightfall, four more newborns had died.

“The death of a baby is our daily bread,” said Dr. Osleidy Camejo, a surgeon in the nation’s capital, Caracas, referring to the toll from Venezuela’s collapsing hospitals.

[…]

At the University of the Andes Hospital in the mountain city of Mérida, there was not enough water to wash blood from the operating table. Doctors preparing for surgery cleaned their hands with bottles of seltzer water.

“It is like something from the 19th century,” said Dr. Christian Pino, a surgeon at the hospital.

The figures are devastating. The rate of death among babies under a month old increased more than a hundredfold in public hospitals run by the Health Ministry, to just over 2 percent in 2015 from 0.02 percent in 2012, according to a government report provided by lawmakers.

The rate of death among new mothers in those hospitals increased by almost five times in the same period, according to the report.

[…]

Here in the Caribbean port town of Barcelona, two premature infants died recently on the way to the main public clinic because the ambulance had no oxygen tanks. The hospital has no fully functioning X-ray or kidney dialysis machines because they broke long ago. And because there are no open beds, some patients lie on the floor in pools of their blood.

It is a battlefield clinic in a country where there is no war.

“Some come here healthy, and they leave dead,” Dr. Leandro Pérez said, standing in the emergency room of Luis Razetti Hospital, which serves the town.

[…]

Yet even among Venezuela’s failing hospitals, Luis Razetti Hospital in Barcelona has become one of the most notorious.

[…]

Samuel Castillo, 21, arrived in the emergency room needing blood. But supplies had run out. A holiday had been declared by the government to save electricity, and the blood bank took donations only on workdays. Mr. Castillo died that night.

For the past two and a half months, the hospital has not had a way to print X-rays. So patients must use a smartphone to take a picture of their scans and take them to the proper doctor.

With many people starving in the country, people are finding any and every way they can to feed themselves. People regularly eat from garbage bins:

WSJ
People in the nation’s capital, Caracas, have resorted to eating and fighting over old food thrown away in garbage bags outside shopping malls where restaurants are located.
“They’re ripping through garbage bags searching for food, the government says this is not happening, but we are very hungry here in Venezuela,” says a male bystander on camera. A local says: “We are starving, we are eating dog food and food meant for farm animals.”

Law and order has completely broken down, with gangs of heavily armed thugs openly even stealing children’s school lunches.

THE ATLANTIC
…the Venezuelan government can no longer afford to provide even rudimentary law and order, making Caracas, the capital, by some calculations one of the most murderous cities in the world. Drug traffickers run large sections of the countryside. Prison gang leaders keep military-style weapons on hand, and while grenade attacks still make the news, they are nothing new. Recently, the police captured an AT4 antitank rocket launcher—basically, a bazooka—from a suspect.
The breakdown of law and order is so severe that even children are being robbed. At Nuestra Señora del Carmen school in El Cortijo, a struggling neighborhood of Caracas, supplies for the school-lunch program have been stolen twice this year already: Thugs have broken into the school’s pantry late at night after fresh food is delivered. The second burglary meant the school couldn’t feed the kids for at least a week.

Looting is extremely prevalent in the country, with mobs of people ambushing grocery delivery trucks to get whatever they can, and meanwhile the country’s National Guard appears to be standing down, and allowing it. Probably, because they, and their families, are counted among the starving people of the country.

FOX BUSINESS
Another video shows drivers in Venezuela pulling over to join in the ambush and looting off grocery trucks. That is what happened on the national highway to Puerto Ordaz, in southern Venezuela, where the country’s largest oil reserve and a major steel operation is located. The National Guard is shown on camera standing back, not doing anything.

“People are starving, the last resort for them is to loot and steal rice,” one bystander says on camera. “The National Guard is here but no one is paying any attention to them at all, they’re letting it happen.”

In this former socialist country, they have sunk so far into their economic and humanitarian crisis that the people are simply starving in the streets. They have even raided the zoo’s for food, taking what they can eat, and selling the rest on the local markets. Dogs and cats, pigs and even pet birds are not safe, and have already been widely consumed already.

PANAM POST
In a country that once was rich, but where people are beginning to starve, few animals are safe. One morning in August at the metropolitan zoo in the torrid city of Maracaibo, workers were shocked to find the bones of a buffalo and some wild pigs inside their cages with clear signs of mutilation. Thieves allegedly stole the meat to eat what they could and sell the rest on the local market.

In west Caracas, at the zoo of Caricuao district, the same sort of thing happened. Watchmen found the bones and offal of a black horse inside its enclosure. Apparently the perpetrators only took the edible parts of the animal.

Venezuela’s increasingly authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro knows people are going hungry in his country, but he doesn’t know what to do about it. He keeps announcing new stopgap measures, but his words don’t carry a lot of nutritional weight.

Meanwhile, the secretary of the union of workers in zoos and national parks, Marlene Sifontes, says the situation in the zoos is far worse than the headlines have suggested. It’s not just a question of animals being eaten, it’s the question of whether the animals themselves will be able to eat at all. Some animals are dying from malnutrition and some others are dying because of the lack of medicines for the treatments they require.

The most emblematic case: Ruperta the Elephant. She is one of the oldest animals in the zoo of Caricuao, but here emeritus status could not prevent her from suffering the negative impact of the economic crisis. Much like Natalí and Luis Miguel and their families, and indeed like most Venezuelans, Ruperta the Elephant is going hungry.

The government is panicking. They are unsure of how to stem the tide of poverty sweeping their land in the wake of a Socialist government. Stopgap measures are all they are able to come up with, such as suggesting that instead of expensive chickens, and cows, that the people raise rabbits for food.

One of the latest programs was the so-called plan conejo (rabbit plan), a failed attempt to start rabbit farms all over the capital in order to substitute the proteins that come from unaffordable chicken and even more unaffordable beef.

Former careers during the high times are being traded for any side hustle possible including many former professionals and white collar women who are now turning to prostitution simply to feed themselves and their families. The Miami Herald’s report reveals the deep level of desperation in the country as former doctors, teachers, and even engineers seek work in the sex trade to provide money for food.

At a squat, concrete brothel on the muddy banks of the Arauca River, Gabriel Sánchez rattled off the previous jobs of the women who now sell their bodies at his establishment for $25 an hour.

“We’ve got lots of teachers, some doctors, many professional women and one petroleum engineer,” he yelled over the din of vallenato music. “All of them showed up with their degrees in hand.”

And all of them came from Venezuela.

Now, The Guardian reports that girls as young as 12 years old are selling themselves into prostitution to help pay for the rising cost of living in this bleak place.

Since then Venezuela’s crisis has deepened, the number of women working at the brothel has doubled, and their ages have dropped. “I was the youngest when I started. Now there are girls who are 12 or 13. Almost all of us are there because of the crisis, because of hunger.”

She earns 400,000 bolivares a month, around four times the minimum wage, but at a time of hyperinflation that is now worth about $30, barely enough to feed herself, her mother and a new baby brother. She has signed up to evening classes that run before her nightly shift, and hopes to one day escape from a job where “everything is ugly”
[…]

The less fortunate find themselves walking across the border into Colombia looking for a way, any way, to keep themselves and their families fed. A recent study suggested as many as 350,000 Venezuelans had entered Colombia in the last six years.

But with jobs scarce, many young — and not so young — women are turning to the world’s oldest profession to make ends meet.

[…]

Dayana, a 30-year-old mother of four, nursed a beer as she watched potential clients walk down the dirt road that runs in front of wooden shacks, bars and bordellos. Dressed for work in brightly colored spandex, Dayana said she used to be the manager of a food-processing plant on the outskirts of Caracas.

But that job disappeared after the government seized the factory and “looted it,” she said.

Seven months ago, struggling to put food on the table, she came to Colombia looking for work. Without an employment permit, she found herself working as a prostitute in the capital, Bogotá. While the money was better there, she eventually moved to Arauca, a cattle town of 260,000 people along the border with Venezuela, because it was easier to send food back to her children in Caracas.

The previous night, her sister had traveled by bus for 18 hours from Caracas to pick up a bundle of groceries that Dayana had purchased — pasta, tuna, rice, cooking oil — and then immediately jumped on a bus back home.

[…]

With inflation running in excess of 700 percent and the bolivar currency in free fall, finding food and medicine in Venezuela has become a frustrating, time-consuming task. Dayana said she often would spend four to six hours waiting in line hoping to buy a bag of flour. Other times she was forced to buy food on the black market at exorbitant rates. Hunger in Venezuela is rampant.

Something should be clearly evident to everyone when they look at the depths which this country has fallen into in the wake of disastrous socialism. Socialism kills, socialism dehumanizes us, and forces us back into subsistence living conditions. Socialism is the opposite of all we have strived to achieve in western civilization under capitalism, which has been the single biggest rising tide throughout our dark history on this planet.

So, what can you do to help? Here is a list provided mostly by Buzzfeed, which details some of the very best ways for your contributing dollar to have the greatest impact. Please consider helping!

Donate food, water and protection to those who are on the streets protesting.

Feed the Protest is feeding and providing water to the protesters on the streets.

~

Masks vs. Bombs is an organization providing gasmasks for the protesters on the street. You can donate here.

~

Helmets vs. Bombs is yet another organization providing helmets to the protesters on the street. 

Instagram: @cascosvsbombas

Twitter: @cascosvsbombas

Facebook: cascosvsbombas

~

Moy Moy Design is building and donating impact proof vests to help prevent injuries caused by high-impact blows among photographers, reporters, and protesters.

They are also calling on seamstresses and designers to join the initiative.

If you have sewing abilities, or you know someone who wants to join the project, here is the pattern to design the vests.

Donate supplies to Central University of Venezuela medical students, who are treating the injured.

This is a list of the first-aid supplies that are needed by Green Cross members (UCV First Aid).

Supplies can be bought through Amazon and you have the choice to ship the products directly to Miami, from where, at no additional cost, the packages are shipped to Venezuela.

Keep up-to-date on new ways to help, follow the group’s official accounts:

Instagram: @primerosauxiliosucv

Twitter: @PA_UCV

Facebook: PrimerosAuxiliosUCV

Help the Blue Helmets

Blue Helmet is a group of health professionals who can be identified in the protests by the blue helmets they wear. They provide immediate primary care to the injured. (They are not related to the United Nations peace corps).

They constantly organize fundraising campaigns around the world. For information on how to help, go here.

Help Santuario Luna

Dogs and cats are not immune to the crisis, and are in need of help as well!

The main mission of Santuario Luna is to help cats and dogs who live on the streets, provide them with veterinary care, feed and stabilize them, and try to find them a permanent home. If now home can be found, they’re sheltered for life.

Any contribution (be it medicine, food, or pet products) are welcomed. They also have accounts with Banco Bicentenario and Bank of America.

Website: http://fundacionsantuarioluna.com

Instagram: @Santuarioluna

Facebook: SantuarioLuna

Help the children of Venezuela

Sun.risas is a non profit that helps children around the world.

You can donate supplies safely here, contributing $1 via Venmo (info here), or donating money through any of the campaigns that support the organization here.

You can also follow them on Instagram to learn about their collection campaigns:

Instagram: @sun.risas

~

Child malnutrition in Venezuela has reached alarming levels due to a combination of the shortage and high cost of food. Hospitals across the country reportedly receive between 10 to 15 malnourished children each day in emergency rooms and not all of them survive.

Sharing for Life helps children who are in critical health conditions and need food.

You can donate here or at any of the spots around the world where supplies are collected.

Follow them here:

Instagram: @comparteporunavida

Sitio Web: http://comparteporunavida.com/en