Thursday, June 02, 2016

Can It Get Worse in Venezuela? (Part 2)


Fmr. Amb. to Venezuela: Things will get worse in Venezuela  
Published on May 17, 2016

Venezuelans Are Eating Their Pets! // The Daily Sunny  
Published on May 11, 2016
Suicide on the Rise in Venezuela as Desperation Grows
Suicide Is One Option Venezuelans Are Taking to Escape Severe Crisis
Orlando Avendaño
June 28, 2016
Homeless women and children in Venezuela. (wikimedia)
Before committing suicide, Ana Maria Perdomo sat down in her kitchen to write a letter to her family.
“Children…Don’t be upset, even though I know it is difficult, don’t be sad. It is too difficult and I don’t want to be a burden to anyone, I know I have Non Hodgkins Lymphoma and it’s better to end this now.”
Mother of Augusto, 45, and Angela, 32, and grandmother to three girls of 4, 9, and 17, Perdomo, 61, hung herself on February 18 to avoid having to suffer the disease in Venezuela, a country that could have never supported her medically.
Perdomo’s one sister Josefina said the situation was depressing for everyone. The medications she needed were impossible to purchase at the prices available, or couldn’t be found at all.
The case of this 62-year-old woman reverberated throughout the entire country. The indignation on social media flared up, but in the end it was presented as an isolated incident.
Depressing numbers
The shortages in Venezuela have increased considerably. According to Datanálisis, it is now up to 80 percent. In September 2015, “conjunctural shortages” were at 22.2 percent; four months later it rose to 28 percent, according to the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV).
Additionally, Datanálisis predicted inflation would increase to up to 450 percent by the end of 2016.
This reality is becoming increasingly depressing for the common citizen. The drop in purchasing power has been colossal, according to analysts. Monthly inflation for food is around 30 percent, meaning 1 percent per day, according to the Center for Social Analysis (Cendas). Furthermore, the Internation Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that the cost of living during 2015 went up 270 percent; this year, it will increase to 720 percent.
The latest numbers from the National Institute of Statistics at the end of 2012 ranked 32 percent of the population as living in poverty, 9.8 percent of which live in extreme poverty. Professor of Business and Political Science Jesús Conde said these numbers may not reveal the full picture.
“That was in 2013, and they are official numbers, which means they are coming from the government, for whom the truth is not convenient,” he said. “Imagine three years later, when shortages and inflation have increased to massive levels. The situation is critical.”
Never-ending lines stretch far out of supermarkets. The faces of people waiting to buy food with no signs of dignity: they are crestfallen. The people are tired and depressed from the critical situation in which the country is in.
“We are killing each other over a piece of food,” an activist said during a protest outside a Bicentenario market in Las Mercedes, Caracas.
“If you could see my children: skinny, dying,” wailed a man from the state of Táchira.
“Our children are dying from hunger,” another woman said.
“Nothing is right!” yelled a man during a protest against food shortages in the Avenue of Fuerzas Armadas in Caracas.
The testimonials that reveal the critical condition in which the country is in are just a few of the things that the country isn’t in shortage of. On the contrary.
Some say the situation is not so dire. The purchasing power of the middle and upper classes of the country have diminished significantly, but the reality is graver than it appears. The suicide of Ana María Perdomo could have occurred as an isolated incident. But the situation suggests otherwise. There are many other cases that prove how ordinary this phenomenon has become: in Venezuela, suicide is an option to escape severe crisis.
The road to crisis
About four weeks ago in the slum of Las Palmitas at the south of Valencia, Ana Pérez took her own life because she had nothing to give her children to eat. A neighbor, who preferred to remain anonymous, sai Ana Pérez had been depressed for several months.
“She would spend every night at the supermarket to try and buy whatever she could at an affordable price. The situation grew dire when she could not find food even if she woke up at dawn.”
“The time came in which she would give her children the water for rice and pasta that was shared between neighbors. She could not handle the situation. Many times she would come crying to my house,” Pérez’s friend said.
With a rope tied to her zinc rooftop, the mother of three small boys took her own life by jumping off a table. Family members refused to comment about Pérez’s suicide, but another neighbor said the Pérez family was a happy one up until a few months ago, when the shortages became unmanageable.
In another slum in the south of Valencia, in Tocuyito, another suicide occurred: Roberto Fermín, a single man working in a pharmacy, decided to take his own life.
“Robert’s suicide surprised us all. He was a happy man,” María Blanco, Fermín’s neighbor, said. “He would say hi to everyone in the neighborhood. We all knew he had serious financial issues. Due to the medication shortages, he was rarely selling anything at the pharmacy, especially because no one could afford the high prices.”
“We all loved him,” Blanco added. “He didn’t leave any children behind, but he left a lot of friends.”
Gaining access to suicide rates in Venezuela is difficult. If you go to a morgue such as that of Bello Monte in Caracas, neither family members nor officials will admit there are any cases in which people ended their lives to escape their circumstances.
The last time official numbers detailed the amount of suicides in the country was in 2012, and it was an extremely low number. In fact, that year, the World Health Organization (WHO) placed Venezuela as the third country in Latin America with the fewest amount of suicides: 3.6 per 100 thousand inhabitants.
Additionally, the 2008 Guinness World Records gave Venezuela the award for happiest country in the world.
However, nine years later, the United Nations’ (UN) World Happiness Report ranked Venezuela as Latin America’s most unhappy country, and number 44 in the world.
According to an article published in Marcapasos, since the inauguration of the Caracas Metro in 1983 to 2009, the number of people that would jump on the tracks to end their lives has been multiplied by six.
Alarming suicide rates
Clinical psychologist and university professor Yorelis Acosta said she has received “a wave of cases” in recent months in which people have come to her wanting to end their lives.
“They are the most common cases I have treated recently. The increase in depression in this country is unbelievable. The main cause being the shortage of food, the second, medication,” Acosta said.
The psychologist said she knows of at least seven cases in which people have killed themselves due to the crisis in the country: “I received the data from a journalist. But aside from that, I know of three women, from the interior of the country, whom decided to take their own lives”.
After Ana María Perdomo’s case became known, a series of supposedly isolated incidents began to arise online.
This May, in Santa Rita, Zulia, Regina del Carmen Sánchez, 54, killed herself due to desperation caused by not being able to find food. According to information given by the newspaper La Verdad, the Venezuelan mother suffered from anxiety attacks and had been diagnosed with a stomach anomaly, which was a consequence from too much consumption of unregulated corn flour she bought on the street.
Sanchez’s family members assured a Zulia newspaper that “despite trying to option basic foodstuffs in commercial establishments, she could not. Last time she was beat up and taken outside because she had supposedly cut the line.”
Because buying regulated products became an impossible task, Sánchez decided to purchase them through the black market. She fell deep into debt as a result.
Her family members claim that the 54-year-old woman was truly depressed and constantly crying for fear of not being able to feed her children. One day, after a family discussion surrounding her emotional state, Regina del Carmen Sánchez look herself in a room and was found two hours later hanging from a beam.
Another case was that of Yorvi Yunior Gonzalez, 18. According to the website El Cooperant, the young student took his own life in October of last year because he did not have money to eat, let alone continue his education.
“Yorvi was depressed because he did not have money to keep studying and always talked about how at home there wasn’t, at times, enough to eat,” his sister Elulalia González told Panorama in tears.
The most recent case is that of Tony Almarza, who decided to hang himself in his own home, located in the town of Santa Cruz de Mara, Zulia.
The most important part of this case is that Almarza announced what he was going to do on Facebook, explaining the reasons that led to his suicide.
“Do you want to know why a person takes their own life? For several reasons: first, this damn government that is going to starve us to death, and second, the insolence of life. One has fought quite a lot for nothing.”
“This is the best way,” Almarza said while pointing toward the rope attached to the ceiling. He later asked. “Fight for what? And in this country? No way…”
Venezuelan society, a survivalist society
Sociologist Eudes Cedeño of the Central University of Venezuela explained that suicides are normally due to personal reasons, but in recent cases, society has played a key role.
“In the case of the woman in Zulia or that of Anzoátegui, it is the social conditions that make them feel backed into a corner.”
Cedeño points out that “the lack of food, medication and the stress generated by the food lines end up being … unbearable for some people, which makes them alienate themselves and retreat into private.”
“Imagine thinking that you would never be able to feed your children ever again. Or that, because of your condition, because there are no medications available, you will become a burden to your children. It is here where all the psychological and sociological problems start to arise.
“When something as simple as going shopping, or going out at night becomes so complicated, your position in terms of society changes,” says the sociologist.
“Venezuelan society has become a sort of ‘survivalist society.’ People here don’t live, they survive. And that is the problem,” Cedeño said. He emphasized “many people don’t even know that there are others killing themselves because of the situation in the country. This stops people’s sensibility … some people choose to rob, others to eat trash, others to beg and other decide they can no longer take it and choose to end their lives.”
“It is a very sad situation that needs to be addressed,” Cedeño said.
Orlando Avendaño is a PanAm Post intern who resides in Caracas, Venezuela, where he studies social communication at Andrés Bello Catholic University. Follow @OrlvndoA.
Venezuela: Mass Famine Is Imminent as Neighbors, Washington Stand By
It's Not about the Price of Oil: 21st Century Socialism Destroyed Venezuela's Economy and Distribution Networks, Causing an Unprecedented Humanitarian Crisis
PanAm Post Staff
June 22, 2016
Venezuela: mass famine is imminent due to the Chávez-Maduro regime’s destruction of the productive economy. (YouTube)
A humanitarian crisis, the likes of which have never been seen in the Western Hemisphere, is brewing in Venezuela and it will be inevitable in a few weeks.
Much has been written recently about the crisis in Venezuela. During the last week, the world’s leading media outlets have amply reported the shortages of food, medicine and other basic supplies in the country. Unfortunately, despite some great reporting by various journalists, the true extent and the reasons for the country’s desperate situation have not yet been clearly understood by the media and the international community.
The majority of those reporting on Venezuela still believe the current crisis has been caused by the collapse in the oil price. If that were true, other countries dependent on their oil export revenues, such as Nigeria, should be facing a similar situation. That is not the case. Nigeria is suffering a severe economic downturn, but it is far from suffering the extreme shortages of food and medicine that Venezuelans now face.
Apparently the world has forgotten that food lines first appeared in Venezuela in early 2014, when the price of oil was still over USD $110 per barrel. Venezuela first suffered an extreme shortage of toilet paper in 2013, nearly two years before the collapse of the oil price
Also, even now, with oil below USD $50/barrel, Venezuela has an export income larger than that of Peru, a country with identical population and where there are zero reported shortages of any kind.
The estimate for Venezuela’s export income this year would place it at an amount almost equal to that of Colombia, a country with nearly double the population of Venezuela. Thus, it is incontestable that the decline of oil income is not the cause of the tragic situation in which Venezuelans find themselves.
Venezuela No Longer Has a Functioning Economy
The fact is that Venezuela, while still pumping oil, no longer has a functioning economy. Seventeen years of nationalizations and confiscation of private industries, farms, cattle ranches, distribution companies, sugar mills, and even shopping malls have completely destroyed not only the local production, but the distribution networks necessary for the normal functioning of the economy.
Ninety percent of confiscated and nationalized companies and farms no longer produce anything. SIVENSA, a private steel company formerly with over USD $1 billion in sales, mostly for export, now has negligible production. A country that during the 1980s boasted about having Latin America’s highest levels of production of cement, which it exported to the USA, now has a shortage of cement, even with insignificant construction levels. For most of the 20th century, Venezuela was among the world’s largest coffee producers. Now, the coffee that Venezuelans drink, if they can find any, comes from Nicaragua.
In addition, a draconian system of price controls that forces most local businesses to sell their wares at a loss has halted any attempts by local entrepreneurs to keep their businesses alive. Thousands of businesses have been closing every week.
While the government intentionally tried to substitute private operators with government companies, which were almost always run by corrupt army officers who know nothing of the industries they were entering, shortages of every kind, not just of food and medicine, began to occur. Currently, there are no tires, no car batteries, no auto parts to be found, except through good connections with the military or in the black market.
The distribution fleets of Venezuela’s largest companies have been depleted to the point of no longer being worthy of the word “fleet.”
In 2004, Hugo Chávez dismantled the old 10,000 strong Caracas Metropolitan Police and other police forces in the country. Since then, crime has skyrocketed, but now it has reached a level unthinkable in civilized societies.
At the Caracas Country Club, the country’s most expensive, and formerly most exclusive neighborhood, home to dozens of ambassadorial residences, there are now at least three kidnappings per week. Entire swaths of Venezuela’s largest cities, particularly in poor neighborhoods, are now ruled by gangs under the control of no authority.
There’s No Capital in the Country with the World’s Highest Inflation Levels
Inflation has reached a level close to 1,000%. Prices fluctuate on an hourly basis. In a country that had a GDP of half a trillion US dollars in 2012, the total amount of lending that the entire Venezuelan banking system can offer, due to devaluations and bank regulations, now amounts to merely US$ 170 million. It would now take a pool of banks to finance the construction of a 20 unit apartment building
As a result, credit has become non-existent and companies without access to capital have closed in ever larger numbers. These are businesses that were essential suppliers of key products, such as pharmaceuticals or medical devices.
This week, after days of widespread looting around the country by desperate citizens going hungry, trucks have been assaulted by organized mobs waiting at the edge of roads for any sign of a delivery carrying anything edible. This has further disturbed the already precarious distribution system for basic goods as truckers prefer not to work rather than risk losing the main asset for their livelihood.
All this will only get worse unless there is an immediate change of government in Caracas. Venezuela desperately needs the immediate dismantling of all regulations devised by the communist clique ruling the country and their inept Cuban advisers.
Maduro’s Incompetent Regime Has to End
Even if the Maduro government were to try a 180 degree change and embrace capitalism overnight, the regime lacks the knowhow to improve and rebuild the country’s supply chain, and provide the needed security to achieve it.
The Maduro government, full of corrupt army officers, drug dealers, and communist apparatchiks, simply cannot even begin to tackle the problem they created
At the PanAm Post we warned about the consequences of Maduro’s actions nearly three years ago
Now, what we can see is much worse than even we imagined.
The leaders of all countries in the hemisphere, except for Castro’s Cuba, are meeting now in Washington DC. These leaders will be remembered as those responsible for the first mass famine in the Americas, and the world will not forgive them
Venezuelans Ransack Stores as Hunger Grips the Nation
By Nicholas Casey
June 19, 2016
CUMANÁ, Venezuela — With delivery trucks under constant attack, the nation’s food is now transported under armed guard. Soldiers stand watch over bakeries. The police fire rubber bullets at desperate mobs storming grocery stores, pharmacies and butcher shops. A 4-year-old girl was shot to death as street gangs fought over food.
Venezuela is convulsing from hunger.
Hundreds of people here in the city of Cumaná, home to one of the region’s independence heroes, marched on a supermarket in recent days, screaming for food. They forced open a large metal gate and poured inside. They snatched water, flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, potatoes, anything they could find, leaving behind only broken freezers and overturned shelves.
And they showed that even in a country with the largest oil reserves in the world, it is possible for people to riot because there is not enough food.
In the last two weeks alone, more than 50 food riots, protests and mass looting have erupted around the country. Scores of businesses have been stripped bare or destroyed. At least five people have been killed.
This is precisely the Venezuela its leaders vowed to prevent.
In one of the nation’s worst moments, riots spread from Caracas, the capital, in 1989, leaving hundreds dead at the hands of security forces. Known as the “Caracazo,” or the “Caracas clash,” they were set off by low oil prices, cuts in subsidies and a population that was suddenly impoverished.

The event seared the memory of a future president, Hugo Chávez, who said the country’s inability to provide for its people, and the state’s repression of the uprising, were the reasons Venezuela needed a socialist revolution.
Now his successors find themselves in a similar bind — or maybe even worse.
The nation is anxiously searching for ways to feed itself.
The economic collapse of recent years has left it unable to produce enough food on its own or import what it needs from abroad. Cities have been militarized under an emergency decree from President Nicolás Maduro, the man Mr. Chávez picked to carry on with his revolution before he died three years ago.

“If there is no food, there will be more riots,” said Raibelis Henriquez, 19, who waited all day for bread in Cumaná, where at least 22 businesses were attacked in a single day last week.
But while the riots and clashes punctuate the country with alarm, it is the hunger that remains the constant source of unease.
A staggering 87 percent of Venezuelans say they do not have money to buy enough food, the most recent assessment of living standards by Simón Bolívar University found.
About 72 percent of monthly wages are being spent just to buy food, according to the Center for Documentation and Social Analysis, a research group associated with the Venezuelan Teachers Federation.

In April, it found that a family would need the equivalent of 16 minimum-wage salaries to properly feed itself.
Ask people in this city when they last ate a meal, and many will respond that it was not today.
Among them are Leidy Cordova, 37, and her five children — Abran, Deliannys, Eliannys, Milianny and Javier Luis — ages 1 to 11. On Thursday evening, the entire family had not eaten since lunchtime the day before, when Ms. Cordova made a soup by boiling chicken skin and fat that she had found for a cheap price at the butcher.

“My kids tell me they’re hungry,” Ms. Cordova said as her family looked on. “And all I can say to them is to grin and bear it.”
Other families have to choose who eats. Lucila Fonseca, 69, has lymphatic cancer, and her 45-year-old daughter, Vanessa Furtado, has a brain tumor. Despite also being ill, Ms. Furtado gives up the little food she has on many days so her mother does not skip meals.
“I used to be very fat, but no longer,” the daughter said. “We are dying as we live.”
Her mother added, “We are now living on Maduro’s diet: no food, no nothing.”
Economists say years of economic mismanagement — worsened by low prices for oil, the nation’s main source of revenue — have shattered the food supply.

Sugar fields in the country’s agricultural center lie fallow for lack of fertilizers. Unused machinery rots in shuttered state-owned factories. Staples like corn and rice, once exported, now must be imported and arrive in amounts that do not meet the need.
In response, Mr. Maduro has tightened his grip over the food supply. Using emergency decrees he signed this year, the president put most food distribution in the hands of a group of citizen brigades loyal to leftists, a measure critics say is reminiscent of food rationing in Cuba.
“They’re saying, in other words, you get food if you’re my friend, if you’re my sympathizer,” said Roberto Briceño-León, the director of the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a human rights group.
It was all a new reality for Gabriel Márquez, 24, who grew up in the boom years when Venezuela was rich and empty shelves were unimaginable. He stood in front of the destroyed supermarket where the mob had arrived at Cumaná, an endless expanse of smashed bottles, boxes and scattered shelves. A few people, including a policeman, were searching the wreckage for leftovers to take.
“During Carnival, we used to throw eggs at each other just to have some fun,” he said. “Now an egg is like gold.”
Down the coastal road in a small fishing town called Boca de Uchire, hundreds gathered on a bridge this month to protest because the food deliveries were not arriving. Residents demanded to meet the mayor, but when he did not come they sacked a Chinese bodega.
Residents hacked open the door with pickaxes and pillaged the shop, venting their anger at a global power that has lent billions of dollars to prop up Venezuela in recent years.
“The Chinese won’t sell to us,” said a taxi driver who watched the crowd haul away all that was inside. “So we burn their stores instead.”
Mr. Maduro, who is fighting a push for a referendum to recall him this year over the country’s declines, said it was the political opposition that was behind the attacks on the stores.
“They paid a group of criminals, brought them in trucks,” he said on Saturday on television, promising compensation to those who lost property.
At the same time, the government also blames an “economic war” for the shortages. It accuses wealthy business owners of hoarding food and charging exorbitant prices, creating artificial shortages to profit from the country’s misery.
It has left shop owners feeling under siege, particularly those who do not have Spanish names.
“Look how we are working today,” said Maria Basmagi, whose family immigrated from Syria a generation ago, pointing to the metal grate pulled over the window of her shoe store.
Her shop was on the commercial boulevard in Barcelona, another coastal town racked by unrest last week. At 11 a.m. the day before, someone screamed that there was an attack on a government-run kitchen nearby. Every shop on Ms. Basmagi’s street closed down in fear.
Other shops stay open, like the bakery in Cumaná where a line of 100 people snaked around a corner. Each person was allowed to buy about a pound of bread.
Robert Astudillo, a 23-year-old father of two, was not sure there would be any left once his turn came. He said he still had corn flour to make arepas, a Venezuelan staple, for his children. They had not eaten meat in months.
“We make the arepas small,” he said.
In the refrigerator of Araselis Rodriguez and Nestor Daniel Reina, the parents of four small children, there was not even corn flour — just a few limes and some bottles of water.
The family had eaten bread for breakfast and soup for lunch made from fish that Mr. Reina had managed to catch. The family had nothing for dinner.
It has not always been clear what provokes the riots. Is it hunger alone? Or is it some larger anger that has built up in a country that has crumbled?

Inés Rodríguez was not sure. She remembered calling out to the crowd of people who had come to sack her restaurant on Tuesday night, offering them all the chicken and rice the restaurant had if they would only leave the furniture and cash register behind. They balked at the offer and simply pushed her aside, Ms. Rodríguez said.
“It is the meeting of hunger and crime now,” she said.
As she spoke, three trucks with armed patrols drove by, each emblazoned with photos of Mr. Chávez and Mr. Maduro
The trucks were carrying food
“Finally they come here,” Ms. Rodríguez said. “And look what it took to get them. It took this riot to get us something to eat.
Follow Nicholas Casey on Twitter @caseysjournal
Meridith Kohut contributed reporting from Cumaná, and Ana Vanessa Herrero and María Eugenia Díaz from Caracas, Venezuela.
No Light at the End of the Tunnel for Venezuela
Venezuela Is on a Path to Cuba-like Circumstances
Carlos Sabino
June 1, 2016
Nicolas Maduro
It is often said that Venezuela is already on the verge of a social explosion. In recent months, the scarcity of commodities such as food, medicine and toiletries has worsened while inflation has hit an all-time high, leaving the monthly salary of most workers more or less destroyed.
People are unhappy. Looting of trucks and shops — as well as crowds turning aggressive in the streets — have become commonplace. But this is not enough for a true “social explosion,” a movement that is capable of making Nicolas Maduro’s unpopular government fall for good.
For such a thing to happen, two conditions need to take place in Venezuela: a more or less comprehensive and structured organization of the population against Maduro, and a political leadership that has the firm intention of ending the government’s abuse of power.
The first condition does not exist because the sectors that oppose Maduro today and feel desperate about the situation are people from all walks of life — and they incapable of organizing.
The opposition, on the other hand, is a set of groups that are coordinated in the MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable), which only succeeds in obeying the limitations the regime itself has imposed. Their solution is the recall referendum. But even if he loses the referendum, Maduro will surely be replaced by someone from within his own administration.
MUD doesn’t take into account that the regime has all the levers of power and, therefore, may delay the referendum by bureaucratic procedures until it becomes virtually inconsequential.
Clasping to legal and over-hyped solutions to chavismo, the opposition protest, try legal remedies, appeal to international organizations and even try to negotiate with the regime. But they never really take action.
What’s going to happen then? Riots and looting, of course. But it is very unlikely these can be organized and focused to the point of bringing down the regime. Their forces aren’t big or well-equipped enough.
The referendum, moreover, cannot be realistically held this year, and diplomatic initiatives only serve to help Chavez’s heirs buy time.
The government may well hold out a bit longer, hoping that oil prices rise again so they can maintain control of the situation.
Drowned by hunger and scarcity, beset by the indecision of their leaders and government repression, Venezuelans are slowly approaching the fate Cubans have endured for decades.
Carlos Sabine: Sociologist, writer, and university professor, Sabino is director of the masters and doctoral programs in history at the University of Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala. Follow him @Sabino2324
Police Crack Down on Poor Venezuelans Protesting Food Shortages
Frustrated, Hungry Citizens Looting Local Markets Becoming the Norm in Venezuela
Sabrina Martín
June 1, 2016
Hundreds of Venezuelans protested in Catia on Tuesday.  (NTN24)
Venezuela was a pressure cooker Tuesday, May 31, as a popular area of Caracas became the scene for massive protests over food shortages.
The city’s poor in Catia — one of the neighborhoods most effected by the shortages — was so desperate, that hundreds of them gathered in front of a supermarket where a lack of food caused tempers to flair to the point of looting.
Before the situation got out of hand, the National Guard arrived and began shooting rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, who was chanting “We are hungry, we want food.”
Reporter Daniel Colina published a series of photos that show just how strong the National Guard is while controlling the crowd.
A similar situation took place in Guarenas, where a group of people began protesting food shortages. According to the newspaper El Nacional, the demonstrators burned tires and blocked roads to prevent vehicles from passing. 
This demonstration was also broken up by the National Guard.
Protests regarding food shortages and other basic necessities in the country as run by President Nicolás Maduro have become part of everyday life in Venezuela. Looting at different markets in the country is now recurring news in the local media.
Sabrina Martín is a Venezuelan journalist, commentator, and editor based in Valencia with experience in corporate communication. Follow @SabrinaMartinR.
U.S. companies fleeing Venezuela to escape country's collapsing economy
By Franz von Bergen
Published June 01, 2016
Fox News Latino
Since 2013, when Nicolas Maduro assumed presidency in Venezuela and plunging oil prices began wreaking havoc on the country, more than a dozen U.S. companies have been forced to sell, stop or reduce their operations in the South American country in order to avoid damage cause by the economic crisis.
In the past three weeks alone, Coca-Cola announced hat it had to stop production in the South American country due to a scarcity of sugar, while Bridgestone, a tire company based in Tennessee, decided to sell their assets to local investors and Kimberly Clark, a paper product company based in Texas, reduced its production by 90 percent.
At least 35 companies in the Standards & Poor’s 500 have expressed concerns about Venezuela in the past two months and many have discussed removing Venezuela from its global operations, according to an analysis by USA Today.
That has left Venezuela, already reeling from empty supermarket shelves and a lack of basic goods, with a dearth of American products.
The U.S. companies pulling out of Venezuela say they are feeling the squeeze because of the country’s hyperinflation.
“The company hasn’t received dollars to import raw material since January. About 700 workers had to be suspended. We don’t know how much time we can survive like this,” Williams Bolivar, head of Kimberly Clark Worker’s Union, told Fox News Latino.
Kimberly Clark headquarters are in Irving, Texas, and it produces paper-based products like Huggies diapers, Scott toilet paper and Kotex for feminine hygiene.
Last year, the company reported a $460 million in losses due to currency exchange problems in Venezuela. That caused a 4 percent reduction of its global earnings and hurt its stocks value in Wall Street.
Since then, Kimberly and other major companies like Procter & Gamble, Colgate, Ford, General Motors and Mondelez (Oreo) opted to remove Venezuela from their global operations to avoid a direct impact on the overall company's bottom line.
“That’s an option to keep the brand in the Venezuela’s market while avoiding possible damage. But it obviously has consequences for the company because the parent office refuses to do any investment or innovations in the country. It also stops credit lines,” a source from inside the American-Venezuelan Trade and Industry Chamber, or Venamcham, told FNL.
The chamber would not give an official statement.
The source added that these companies think that Venezuela’s situation could improve in the future.
“This was always a great market for U.S. products because it’s an oil-rich country where people like to buy quality brands,” he said. “That’s why they are waiting.”
But others already lost patience. Like Bridgestone, General Mills sold its operations in Venezuela to local investors in March.
Mead Johnson, which makes infant formula, said Venezuela was its toughest market. It blamed the Venezuela for its revenues falling 6 percent.
“The unfavorable year-over-year comparison was mainly driven by tough base comparisons in our two largest markets and affecting the quarter itself are significantly reduced shipments to Venezuela," CEO Peter Jakobsen said during a call to investors in April, according to USA Today. "The company's Latin American sales were actually 7% higher if you factor out Venezuela and currency effects…We expect very limited sales in Venezuela."
Since 2013, when Maduro took power, at least eight multinational companies have fled from Venezuela. Four are from the US: General Mills, Bridgestone America, EFCO and Clorox.
The others are from Italy (Alitalia), Canada (Air Canada), Mexico (Gruma) and the United Kingdom (Wonder). Just this week, Chile-based Latam, Latin America's largest airline, announced it was suspending its flights to Venezuela because of the "difficult macroeconomic scenario" affecting the region.
As the economic situation becomes worse, more could follow.
“We know that other U.S. companies are negotiating with local investors,” the Venamcham source said.
The buyer of General Mills assets in Venezuela, a company call Lengfeld Inc, is a relatively inexperienced firm and its owners have been linked to the government by the local media.
The biggest problem for foreign companies is that the amount of dollars circulating in Venezuela’s economy has reduced dramatically since 2013, prompting a further tightening of currency controls. Multinational companies’ revenues remain hopelessly trapped in the local bolivar.
According to local firm Ecoanalitica, the government owes U.S. companies more than $6 billion.
“To get out of this crisis the government should sit and negotiate with private companies to start producing. Other socialists presidents, like Evo Morales in Bolivia, do it,” said Alejandro Grisanti, one of the heads of Ecoanalitica.
But Maduro’s government is doing the opposite. Last week, they blamed 10 private companies for the country’s current shortages.
Alongside with Polar, the biggest Venezuelan company, the list included five US firms: Cargill, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly Clark, Colgate Palmolive and Procter & Gamble.
Franz von Bergen is a freelancer reporter living in Caracas.
Venezuela is running out of everything: Bread, sugar, toilet paper...
by Rafael Romo and Patrick Gillespie   @CNNMoney
May 31, 2016

 How did Venezuela get into such deep debt?
Published on May 3, 2016
CNN's Paula Newton explains how Venezuela has landed itself in a financial disaster.
Venezuela is running out of just about everything. Food, medicine, electricity, toilet paper, condoms -- you name it.
And over the weekend at least two large international airlines -- Lufthansa and LATAM -- said they will suspend service to Venezuela in the coming months due to the economic crisis.
The widespread scarcities and fleeing businesses reflect a country in crisis.
"There's a shortage of everything at some level," says Ricardo Cusanno, vice president of Venezuela's Chamber of Commerce. Cusanno says 85% of companies in Venezuela have halted production to some extent.
Venezuela's economy is spiraling into extreme recession. It is ironic given that the country sits on the world's largest proven oil reserves of oil. However Venezuela hasn't cut back from expensive government spending even as oil prices have lost half its value in the past two years.

An oppostion-led Congress is pushing for the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro and people have joined rallies and protests calling for his removal.

The country is under the spell of a drought, it's battling the Zika virus and people are struggling to get medicine in equipment-scarce hospitals.

Here's a rundown on Venezuela's crisis and how it's affecting daily life there:

Toilet paper problem

Toiletries are running in short supply across the country. Many Venezuelans say that people wait in lines for several hours to buy basic toiletries, only to sell them at much higher prices on the black market.

Bloomberg reported last year that Trinidad & Tobago had offered to exchange tissue paper for oil with Venezuela. It's unclear if the deal ever came through.

Condoms and birth control are hard to find, Venezuelans say. You won't have any more luck with toothpaste, soap, toilet paper or shampoo. And Maduro has asked women to stop using blow dryers.

Glenda Bolivar lives in Caracas. Blow drying her hair at her favorite salon had been a daily tradition but she recently had to stop.
"Pretty soon, we will only be able to use candles like the old times," Bolivar told CNN in late April.
Food: Butter, bread and sugar shortage
Venezuela's government, running low on revenues and reserves, can't pay for sufficient amounts of imports for basic items like milk, butter, eggs and flour.
The government has also significantly decreased sugar production due to government price controls and inability to pay for imported fertilizer.
On Monday, Coca-Cola announced that it had halted production of Coke and other sweetened beverages due to the sugar shortage.
Alejandro, a 23-year-old resident of Maracaibo, has learned to live without butter for a month. For a few weeks, he and his parents also learned to live without bread. They had arepas, a flour-based food, instead.
On the unofficial exchange rate -- which many Venezuelans use -- Alejandro makes $57 a month working at a law firm during the day and teaching at night. Sometimes, Alejandro pays $2 for a case of butter -- or 4% of his monthly income -- on the black market so he doesn't have to wait in line for several hours.
Despite his struggles, Alejandro says he's among the fortunate in Venezuela.
"Everything here is just awful," says Alejandro (CNNMoney chose to withhold his last name). "There isn't one thing going right in Venezuela right now."
Rolling blackouts in Venezuela
Venezuelans now have rolling blackouts. The country's main source of energy, El Guri dam, is at record low water levels.
To save energy, Maduro has instituted rolling blackouts in cities across Venezuela for at least April and May. He also cut the work week to two days for government employees.
When Alejandro teaches his night class, he uses the flashlight on his cell phone so the students don't have to be sitting in the dark if there's a power cut. Maracaibo has lost electricity for 3 hours a day in May.
A health care crisis
Venezuela lacks roughly 80% of the basic medical supplies needed to treat its population, according to the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela. People are dying in hospitals for lack of sufficient medicines and equipment.
Jose Luis Vazquez experienced the nightmare firsthand. He had just survived a gunshot wound to the chest in a robbery attempt and doctors said all he needed was minor surgery.
But he was still in the hospital days later and he had to pay for all the supplies -- gauges, syringes, peroxide and more.
"There was nothing in this hospital," Vazquez told CNN earlier in May in a hospital in Valencia, a city about 100 miles from the capital, Caracas.
Shipping gold, low on cash
Venezuela's government has been running out of foreign reserves and literally shipping gold to help pay for its debt. Venezuela only has $12.1 billion in foreign reserves as of March, according to the most recent central bank figures.
That's down by half from a year ago. In order to get cash loans to pay for its debt, Venezuela has shipped $2.3 billion of gold to Switzerland so far this year as collateral, according to Swiss government import data.
Experts believe Venezuela will likely default on its debt this fall.
"Things continue to devolve in Venezuela," says Russ Dallen, managing partner at LatInvest, a firm in Miami that invests in Latin America.
-- Osmary Hernandez, Flora Charner and Paula Newton contributed reporting from Caracas
Asphyxia and Drills: How Political Prisoners in Venezuela Get Tortured
Human-Righs NGO Counts 96 Prisoners for Political Reasons, Some Held in Tiny Cells Several Stories Underground
Sabrina Martín
May 31, 2016
Torture in Venezuela: the Venezuelan opposition says Maduro has become a “modern dictatorship.” (El País)
Being an opposition activist in Venezuela these days could get you locked up in prison for political reasons, risking your life.
According to the Venezuelan Penal Forum, an NGO that defends human rights in Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro’s regime is keeping 96 political prisoners, many of whom are being tortured in underground cells.
A documentary called “The Tomb,” based on real-life accounts, reveals how young detainees live under the watch of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), spending weeks or months in 4 x 6 foot cells below the ground.
They undergo interrogation and torture sessions which often involve making confessions or give up names in order to see the sunlight or go home.
The head of the Venezuelan Penal Forum has called the current government a “modern dictatorship.” He claims that the state security apparatus has perfected forms of torture and intimidation against those who oppose the Chavista elite.
According to complaints before the Venezuelan Penal Forum, the government allegedly tortures political prisoners into making false confessions.
What Torture in Venezuela Looks Like
On Sunday, May 29, attorney and defender of human rights José Vicente Haro recounted on Twitter the experience of Araminta González, who was detained during a protest at the end of 2014.
  • They place a bag over their heads and before closing it off to induce asphyxia, they spray insecticide into it.
  • Then, they set off electric charges on various body parts and increase the strength if the tortured person refuses to cooperate.
  • During this torture process that takes place in the torture room of the SEBIN [intelligence agency], they beat up the tortured person.
  • In some cases, if the tortured person is male, he gets a wood stick up his angus.
The attorney described other cases of torture that applied to political prisoner Marcos Coello, who tried to flee Venezuela before they could sentence him.
Haro explained that there is a type of torture called the “Massage of the CICPC,” in reference to the “Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas” — or Organization for Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigation.
  • In the Anti-terror division of the CICPC they capture people (Avenue Urdaneta), there are some cells with some tortured people.
  • They put a bag over the head to asphyxiate them and then inject insecticide into it.
  • Then they put sticks or bars of wood around the body and wrap the person with rubber foam or “thin mats.”
  • They start beating the person up, hitting, kicking, accompanied by insults of all kinds.
  • All this has the goal of producing or inducing a false confession. If the person doesn’t cooperate, they go to the next level like [they did] with Araminta González.
  • … they put a drill to the person’s ears and threaten to drill their body if they don’t give names and confess.
  • In addition, they use the “helicopter,” a tool that slowly takes off small pieces of the scalp.
Another story he tells is of  Christian Manrique, a student who disappeared for more than 24 hours after being arrested for “taking orders from opposition leaders.”
According to the website Cuentos de la Quinta, the police locked Manrique in the Tomb and threatened to kill him.
A pistol was put in his mouth until he confessed to being paid by opposition leaders to make disturbances during a protest. Local media reported that torture also involved making cuts on his stomach.
“Battered and tortured, he was abandoned in El Paraíso, a popular area in Caracas, with the agents telling him he should go to a friend’s home.”
Sabrina Martín is a Venezuelan journalist, commentator, and editor based in Valencia with experience in corporate communication. Follow @SabrinaMartinR.
Maduro Militarizes Venezuela to Avoid Facing Protests
Soldiers Were Deployed Across the Country to Control Crowds and Protesting
Sabrina Martín
May 19, 2016

Police surround the opposition march. (@luissomaza)

The Venezuelan opposition announced on Wednesday, May 18 that it is marching to the headquarters of the National Electoral Council (CNE) to force the electoral body to ensure the recall referendum process continues against President Nicolás Maduro.
In response, some cities around the country have been militarized.
Caracas decided to close at least 14 subway stations to prevent the mobilization of citizens while hundreds of police and soldiers closed entrances to Plaza Venezuela, the gathering place for the march.
People on Twitter reported strong traffic congestion on the main avenues of the city. Motorized National Police were also on patrol, and there were several military tanks stationed on corners.
Similarly, all access to the Central University of Venezuela was blocked with a strong National Guard presence.
Guarenas, the scene of looting and large protests earlier in the week, also woke up to a military and police presence on the streets. CNE headquarters were surrounded by security officials in western Tachira.
On Twitter, Venezuelans complained that Valle de la Pascua in the country’s central region was also militarized, just as Maturin was in the east.
The March Continues
The governor of Miranda and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles announced, however, that marches toward the offices of the Electoral Council will still happen.
During a press conference, President Maduro mocked the international media for questioning cities under military control.
“What militarization?” He asked. “Show me.”
The President declared a state of emergency on Friday, which was rejected on Tuesday afternoon by the National Assembly, though Maduro still has the power to restrict the right to protest and mobilize.
Sabrina Martín is a Venezuelan journalist, commentator, and editor based in Valencia with experience in corporate communication. Follow @SabrinaMartinR.
Venezuela: Looting Begins in the Birthplace of Chavismo
Residents in Guarenas, the Epicenter of 1989 "Caracazo" Coup Attempt, Suffer under Food Shortages
Sabrina Martin
May 18, 2016
Several days of closed supermarkets resulted in looting in the city east of Caracas. (RCTV)
Protests in Venezuela intensified in response to the country’s food shortages this week, as people took to the streets in Guarenas — a city 15 miles east of Caracas — on Tuesday, May 17 to demand their provisions from supermarkets.
The absence of food for several days in a row — primarily at the supermarkets Paga Poco y Día a Día — was the main reason people began the new wave of protests.
Guarenas, the city in which Caracazo began, remained completely paralyzed Tuesday as people walked down Avenida Intercomunal yelling, “we want food.”
Public transportation was suspended as well, businesses closed their doors, but there was still looting.
According to the news site El Pitazo, the police fired shots into the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd, while groups of people walked through the streets with sticks and other objects trying to break into the shops.
According to local media, protesters were claiming that the supermarket Día Día, one of the main distributors of food in the city, is currently under the control of the government, and has been closed for a week because no products having been delivered.
In another supermarket Paga Poco, no regular products have arrived for several days. Last week, there were three attempts to loot the establishment, because people thought there was hidden food.
On May 11, looting in Venezuela left people injured, on top of thousands of dollars worth of damages. The last two weeks have seen looting turn to pharmacies, commercial centers and food carts. In some places, people have been chanting, “We’re hungry!”
The ghost of “Caracazo” is looming over Guarenas, with 166 lootings this year alone, according to the Venezuelan Observatory Observatory for Social Unrest.
Sabrina Martín is a Venezuelan journalist, commentator, and editor based in Valencia with experience in corporate communication. Follow @SabrinaMartinR.
Also See:
Can It Get Worse in Venezuela?
(Part 1)
06 April 2016
Venezuela Is Out of Food! Who's Next?
15 February 2016
A Better Way? Barter System vs. National Currency!
26 December 2009
Food Shortage, Then Anarchy!
25 July 2012
What to Expect when the Economic Collapse Occurs!
17 May 2013
Disasters Happen! Be Prepared!
(Part 1)
31 March 2011
(Part 2)
30 August 2012
The Collapse of the Entire World’s Economic System has Begun!
18 March 2013
Economic Collapse! How Did We Get Here?
27 February 2013
Are We Facing a Global Financial Crisis?
31 May 2011
Financial Crunch! Economic Collapse!
(Part 1)
31 July 2008
(Part 2)
20 November 2008
(Part 3)
25 January 2009
(Part 4)
17 April 2009
(Part 5)
23 June 2009
(Part 6)
23 August 2009
(Part 7)
30 November 2009
(Part 8)
23 February 2010
(Part 9)
28 August 2010
(Part 10)
13 January 2011
(Part 11)
29 April 2011
(Part 12)
28 July 2011
(Part 13)
04 April 2012
(Part 15)
02 November 2012
Recession? ... Depression? ... What is Going On?
(Part 1)
06 October 2008
(Part 2)
02 February 2009
(Part 3)
19 April 2009
(Part 4)
02 August 2009
(Part 5)
17 September 2010
(Part 6)
17 September 2010
Jobs, Jobs, Where are the Jobs?
(Part 1)
20 April 2010
Chavez, Venezuela, & Socialism
02 June 2009
Are Suspicious 'Suicides' Really Government Murders?
(Part 2)
25 March 2013
Are there Changes in Store for Venezuela?
08 March 2013