Venezuela puts food distribution under military protection

How bad are things getting in Venezuela? People are being forced to wear dirty clothes because there is a shortage of laundry detergent. And the military has had to take over security for food distribution because the shortages are causing people to panic.

In fact, there's a shortage of just about anything that has to be imported. That's because falling oil prices have brought the economy to the brink of ruin and foreign exchange rates have made buying anything overseas nearly impossible.

Bloomberg:

Long lines, some stretching for blocks, formed outside grocery stores in the South American country’s capital as residents search for scarce basic items such as detergent and chicken.

“I’ve visited six stores already today looking for detergent -- I can’t find it anywhere,” said Lisbeth Elsa, a 27-year-old janitor, waiting in line outside a supermarket in eastern Caracas. “We’re wearing our dirty clothes again because we can’t find it. At this point I’ll buy whatever I can find.”

A dearth of foreign currency exacerbated by collapsing oil prices has led to shortages of imports from toilet paper to car batteries, and helped push annual inflation to 64 percent in November. The lines will persist as long as price controls remain in place, Luis Vicente Leon, director of Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis, said today in a telephone interview.

Government officials met with representatives from supermarket chains today to guarantee supplies, state news agency AVN reported. Interior Minister Carmen Melendez said yesterday that security forces would be sent to food stores and distribution centers to protect shoppers.

“Don’t fall into desperation -- we have the capacity and products for everyone, with calmness and patience. The stores are full,” she said on state television.

President Nicolas Maduro last week vowed to implement an economic “counter-offensive” to steer the country out of recession, including an overhaul of the foreign exchange system. He has yet to provide details. While the main government-controlled exchange sets a rate of 6.3 bolivars per U.S. dollar, the black market rate is as much as 187 per dollar.

Inside a Plan Suarez grocery store yesterday in eastern Caracas, shelves were mostly bare. Customers struggled and fought for items at times, with many trying to skip lines. The most sought-after products included detergent, with customers waiting in line for two to three hours to buy a maximum of two bags. A security guard asked that photos of empty shelves not be taken.

A lifting of price controls would help enormously, but you can't do that in Maduro's Venezuela. And with inflation so high, people are buying everything in sight to anticipate the price rising next week.

Maduro is still blaming the US for his country's plight and his supporters still believe him. A military coup is unlikely given the personal loyalty of most of the generals and the shadowy presence of Cuban military advisors acting as Maduro's bodygaurds.

But hungry people believe lies only as long as they have to. Eventually, people will be in the streets rioting for food and Maduro's supporters among the very poor will desert him.

 

 

How bad are things getting in Venezuela? People are being forced to wear dirty clothes because there is a shortage of laundry detergent. And the military has had to take over security for food distribution because the shortages are causing people to panic.

In fact, there's a shortage of just about anything that has to be imported. That's because falling oil prices have brought the economy to the brink of ruin and foreign exchange rates have made buying anything overseas nearly impossible.

Bloomberg:

Long lines, some stretching for blocks, formed outside grocery stores in the South American country’s capital as residents search for scarce basic items such as detergent and chicken.

“I’ve visited six stores already today looking for detergent -- I can’t find it anywhere,” said Lisbeth Elsa, a 27-year-old janitor, waiting in line outside a supermarket in eastern Caracas. “We’re wearing our dirty clothes again because we can’t find it. At this point I’ll buy whatever I can find.”

A dearth of foreign currency exacerbated by collapsing oil prices has led to shortages of imports from toilet paper to car batteries, and helped push annual inflation to 64 percent in November. The lines will persist as long as price controls remain in place, Luis Vicente Leon, director of Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis, said today in a telephone interview.

Government officials met with representatives from supermarket chains today to guarantee supplies, state news agency AVN reported. Interior Minister Carmen Melendez said yesterday that security forces would be sent to food stores and distribution centers to protect shoppers.

“Don’t fall into desperation -- we have the capacity and products for everyone, with calmness and patience. The stores are full,” she said on state television.

President Nicolas Maduro last week vowed to implement an economic “counter-offensive” to steer the country out of recession, including an overhaul of the foreign exchange system. He has yet to provide details. While the main government-controlled exchange sets a rate of 6.3 bolivars per U.S. dollar, the black market rate is as much as 187 per dollar.

Inside a Plan Suarez grocery store yesterday in eastern Caracas, shelves were mostly bare. Customers struggled and fought for items at times, with many trying to skip lines. The most sought-after products included detergent, with customers waiting in line for two to three hours to buy a maximum of two bags. A security guard asked that photos of empty shelves not be taken.

A lifting of price controls would help enormously, but you can't do that in Maduro's Venezuela. And with inflation so high, people are buying everything in sight to anticipate the price rising next week.

Maduro is still blaming the US for his country's plight and his supporters still believe him. A military coup is unlikely given the personal loyalty of most of the generals and the shadowy presence of Cuban military advisors acting as Maduro's bodygaurds.

But hungry people believe lies only as long as they have to. Eventually, people will be in the streets rioting for food and Maduro's supporters among the very poor will desert him.