Crisis in Venezuela – – Our News, Your Views

Crisis in Venezuela


We complain about the price of a pint. Meanwhile, over in Venezuela, folk are forced to drink yellowish milk imported from Chile, and that’s if they can find some in the first place. Over here, we stroll along the well stocked shelves of any supermarket store, pondering whether to obtain normal or luxury sausages stuffed with some unnamable herbs. Our Venezuelan counterparts cannot buy deodorant anywhere and they are very lucky indeed if they return home a) Alive, and b) With enough toilet roll to last them a few days. It’s a panorama of stark contrasts, isn’t it. The abundance that we take for granted here, while a question mark hangs over one’s very survival in the streets of Venezuela. With over 25,000 reported homicides last year, the country has the dubious honor of ranking third in the Most Dangerous Places to Live in 2014, trailing only behind Nigeria and the current chart-topper, Iraq. A homicide is committed every 21 minutes. That equals to more than 200,000 over the last 15 years alone. A curfew is in place in most districts. The panic room building business is booming, however. The most accommodated families have begun building concrete-reinforced rooms to escape ricochets. The Venezuelan government no longer issues crime statistics. That in itself is a fairly revealing fact. Venezuelan shoppers face a mammoth 7 hour average queuing time from the start of their shopping trip to the arduous finish line. More often than not, people are forced to run around multiple stores to obtain first necessity items at luxury prices. A pair of shoes would set you back close to 230 Euro, for instance. Recently, the retailer Zara put on sale entire shipments of clothing and footwear at ‘normal’ prices.  Queues began forming at 5 a.m. Soon, preferential places in the queue were going for 100 Euro. With inflation running close to 60%, these situations will only get worse.

The paradox of it all is that Venezuela is an energy rich country. Some of the world’s largest oil deposits are buried deep beneath its soil. So why this unbalance? The dramatic rise in oil production in the second decade of the 20th century transformed Venezuela’s economy overnight. Agricultural output slumped as foreign oil companies swooped in on the country’s rich oilfields to extract cheap black gold and obtain obscenely high profits in the process. The key issue however, is that Venezuela’s high ranking officials pilfered these benefits for themselves, rather than investing and developing local industries and infrastructures. These individuals used the money to import all sort of goods from abroad to sell in the domestic market, making a killing in doing so. During his time as President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez took effective measures to alleviate such injustices and promoted deep social welfare reforms to help the working class (a social stratum where he himself came from). However, since Chávez’s untimely death in 2013, the country has slowly and steadily descended into financial chaos. So while we may have a point raising our voices and shake our fists against the shambles that is the HSE, surgeons in Venezuela have been known to operate patients using the torches on their mobile phones as impromptu emergency lighting, due to long and frequent blackouts nationwide. Hospitals everywhere are chronically short on antiviral and oncology drugs, X-ray machines often malfunction, and even needles are in short supply. The situation is dire. And while we drink Ballygowan as if it were free, citizens in Venezuela use bottled water in the shower, due to chronic outages and leaks. Venezuela’s plight is far from over.

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