Tag Archives: Venezuela

Middle-class Venezuelans liquidate savings to stockpile food

Ain’t socialism grand?

Typical grocery story in Venezuela

Typical grocery story in Venezuela

From Yahoo: Tebie Gonzalez and Ramiro Ramirez still have their sleek apartment, a fridge covered with souvenir magnets from vacations abroad, and closets full of name brand clothes. But they feel hunger drawing near.

So when the Venezuelan government opened the long-closed border with Colombia this weekend, the couple decided to drain what remained of the savings they put away before the country spun into economic crisis and stock up on food. They left their two young sons with relatives and joined more than 100,000 other Venezuelans trudging across what Colombian officials are calling a “humanitarian corridor” to buy as many basic goods as possible.

“This is money we had been saving for an emergency, and this is an emergency,” Ramirez said. “It’s scary to spend it, but we’re finding less food each day and we need to prepare for what’s coming.”

Gonzalez, 36, earns several times the minimum wage with her job as a sales manager for a chain of furniture stores in the western mountain town of San Cristobal. But lately, her salary is no match for Venezuela’s 700 percent inflation. Ramirez’s auto parts shop went bust after President Nicolas Maduro closed the border with Colombia a year ago, citing uncontrolled smuggling, and cut off the region’s best avenue for imported goods.

The couple stopped eating out this year, abandoned plans to buy a house and put a “for sale” sign on their second car. There is no more sugar for coffee, no more butter for bread and no more infant formula for their 1-year-old son.

When Ramirez, 37, went to get a late night snack on Friday, he found nothing in the refrigerator. So Sunday, the couple donned their nicest clothes and hid fat wads of bills in their bags. Before heading to the border, they surveyed the stocks in their renovated granite kitchen: An inch of vegetable oil at the bottom of a plastic jug. A single package of flour. Some leftover cooked rice. No coffee.

Then they set off in a 2011 Jeep SUV onto bandit-plagued highways, the lights of hillside shantytowns glinting in the blue darkness like stars.

At the crossing, scowling soldiers with automatic weapons patrolled a line that wrapped around more than a dozen blocks. The couple considered turning back. But within minutes, people started shouting that immigration officials were waving everyone through, and the line broke into a stampede.

A mad dash to Columbia

A mad dash to Columbia

Gonzalez and Ramirez ran with thousands of others toward a bridge barely wide enough for two cars to pass. Soon, it was packed as tightly as a rush-hour subway train. Some people cradled newborns, others toted dogs as they headed to a new life in Colombia. Most carried suitcases and backpacks to fill with groceries.

The couple held hands to stop the crowd from pushing them apart. Two hours passed. People sang the national anthem. Gonzalez’s feet ached in Tommy Hilfiger wedge heels. People who couldn’t stand the claustrophobia and heat doubled back to try to swim across the river, but soldiers stopped them.

At last, the Colombian flags came into view. Soon, the bridge opened out onto a road lined with officials waving, cheering, even doling out cake. No one checked ID cards. Beyond the reception line, folk music played and kiosks sold products that have become treasures in Venezuela: rice, toothpaste, detergent, and sacks of sugar.

Gonzalez was crying behind her oversized aviator glasses. “I thought the crossing would be easier. It made me feel so humiliated, like I was an animal; a refugee,” she said.

“But look how different things are on this side. It’s like Disneyland,” responded Ramirez. Not only was the town filled with prized groceries, but everything was much cheaper than on Venezuelan black market, now the only alternative for people who don’t have time to spend in the hours-long lines for scarce goods that have become the most salient feature of the oil country’s economic crisis.

They changed their Venezuelan money into Colombian currency at a mall, where Gonzalez luxuriated in the clean, air-conditioned space as she window-shopped for watches and handbags.

As she browsed past the shoes, a TV report flashed on the store television: It was an aerial shot of the bridge she had crossed over, crammed with people. “Humanitarian crisis,” the headline said. “Oh no,” Gonzalez whispered.

Other shoppers were indignant. “That isn’t Venezuela. That isn’t us,” said a woman who was looking at sneakers. Gonzalez crossed herself and left. It was time to go food shopping and get home.

The variety at the mall supermarket felt unreal after so many months of scrounging in near-empty stores. The couple debated over the best baby toothpaste. Gonzalez ran her hand over seven varieties of shampoo. She examined each option in an aisle of pasta.

But while things were cheaper than in shortage-hit Venezuela, they were pricier than they had expected. They decided to skip the flour and sugar, instead choosing seven packages of the cheapest pasta. They went for cloudy off-brand cooking oil instead of the more expensive canola. Every price was checked and rechecked as the couple spent three hours deciding how to allocate their emergency fund. “It’s more expensive than we had hoped, but what matters is that it’s available at all,” Ramirez said.

Other Venezuelans in the store — teachers, small business owners and office workers — pored over prices and reluctantly put things back.

In the end, the couple bought enough food to fill two suitcases and a duffel bag, then slipped into the stream of exhausted shoppers filing back to Venezuela. Colombian officials said Monday there would be no more one-day border openings.

Colombian soldiers shook hands with the departing Venezuelans and wished them well. But the kindness didn’t lift the shoppers’ spirits the same way it had when they entered Colombia hours earlier. At home, Ramirez and Gonzalez stacked their hard-won supplies into gleaming white pantry cabinets. They still looked pretty bare.

Venezuelans line up in state-run supermarket

Venezuelans line up in state-run supermarket

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DCG

Venezuela to Seize Kimberly-Clark Factory as Production Ends

Aint’ socialism grand?

Desperation in Venezuela: 5,000 Venezuelans loot supermarket

Desperation in Venezuela: 5,000 Venezuelans loot supermarket

From ABC News: Venezuela’s government said Monday that it will seize a factory belonging to Kimberly-Clark Corp. after the U.S. personal care giant said it was no longer possible to manufacture in this crisis-wracked South American nation.

Labor Minister Owaldo Vera said the socialist government was taking the action at the request of the 971 workers who have occupied the factory that the company decided to shutter in central Aragua state.

Kimberley-Clark announced on Saturday that it was suspending production in Venezuela because of a lack of primary materials, currency trouble and soaring inflation. The company made a number of hard-to-find staples in Venezuela such as diapers and face tissues.

“Kimberly-Clark will continue producing for all of the Venezuelans,” Vera said in a televised statement from the factory surrounded by workers chanting pro-government slogans.

President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government accused Kimberly-Clark of failing to properly notify the government of its plans.

The Irving, Texas-based company said Monday that it acted appropriately in suspending operations.

“If the Venezuelan government takes control of Kimberly-Clark facilities and operations, it will be responsible for the well-being of the workers and the physical assets, equipment and machinery in the facilities going forward,” the company said in a statement.

Kimberly-Clark joins Bridgestone, General Mills, Procter & Gamble and other multinational corporations in scaling back operations in Venezuela amid its economic crisis.

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Saturday funnies!


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This is Venezuela: Mob burns a man alive over $5

Ain’t socialism grand?

Desperation in Venezuela: 5,000 Venezuelans loot supermarket

Desperation in Venezuela: 5,000 Venezuelans loot supermarket

Things are bad in Venezuela. Dr. Eowyn reported about 5,000 looting a  supermarket and the president declaring a state-of-emergency and how people are killing pets for food.

Now this.

Via NY Post: The mob didn’t know at first what Roberto Bernal had done, but he was running and that was enough. Dozens of men loitering on the sidewalk next to a supermarket kicked and punched the 42-year-old until he was bloodied and semi-conscious. After all, they had been robbed of cellphones, wallets and motorcycles over the years, and thought Bernal had a criminal’s face.

Then a stooped, white-haired man trailing behind told them he’d been mugged. The mob went through Bernal’s pockets and handed a wad of bills to the old man: the equivalent of $5. They doused Bernal’s head and chest in gasoline and flicked a lighter. And they stood back as he burned alive.

“We wanted to teach this man a lesson,” said Eduardo Mijares, 29. “We’re tired of being robbed every time we go into the street, and the police do nothing.”

Vigilante violence against people accused of stealing has become commonplace in this crime-ridden country of 30 million, once one of the richest and safest in Latin America.

Reports of group beatings now surface weekly in local media. The public prosecutor opened 74 investigations into vigilante killings in the first four months of this year, compared to two all of last year. And a majority of the country supports mob retribution as a form of self-protection, according to polling from the independent Venezuelan Violence Observatory.

The revenge attacks underscore how far Venezuela has fallen, with the lights flickering out daily, and food shortages fueling supermarket lines that snake around for blocks. As the plunging price of oil has laid bare years of mismanagement, the economy has come apart, and with it, the social fabric.

Venezuela now has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and it’s hard to find a person who hasn’t been mugged. In the general haze of violence, Bernal’s killing didn’t stand out enough to make the front pages or provoke comment from local politicians.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro

“Life here has become a misery. You walk around always stressed, always scared, and lynching offers a collective catharsis,” Violence Observatory director Roberto Briceno-Leon said. “You can’t do anything about the lines or inflation, but for one moment, at least, the mob feels like it’s making a difference.”

Bernal lived his whole life in a maze of narrow staircases and cheerfully painted cinder-block shacks built into the hills above Caracas. This kind of slum is home for about half of Venezuelans, who are bearing the brunt of the country’s collapsing economy.

The shantytowns draped over Caracas have not seen running water for months, and residents have begun raiding passing trucks for food. Bernal had been out of work, and recently confided in his siblings that he and his wife were struggling to feed their three children. He wanted to find a way to move to Panama.

A quiet man with a muscular build from his time in the army, Bernal spent the days before his death presiding over his sister’s kitchen, preparing Easter stews and candied passion fruit. He chuckled softly when he won at dominos.

His six siblings thought of him as the one who made it, attending a cooking school and becoming a professional chef. He liked to turn on the TV as soon as he got home from work, and would leave the room at the first sign of an argument. Many people who grow up deep in the slums assimilate some parts of street culture, sporting tattoos or cocked baseball caps, but not Roberto.

“He was so on the straight and narrow, he didn’t even have a nickname,” his aunt Teresa Bernal said.

A regular church-goer who often sent around religious text messages, Bernal set his relatives’ phones dinging the night before the burning with a series of prayers for God to fill their day with blessings.

That morning, he left the family’s windowless shack before dawn and walked into an acrid smog that had descended over the city from grass fires in the mountains above. He took a twisting bus ride out of the slum, dropped his daughter at school, then boarded the metro.

By the time he emerged next to a bustling thoroughfare near the center of town, fat blue and gold macaws were crisscrossing overhead. He walked past security guards sitting outside sparsely stocked shops and apartment buildings protected by the electric fencing that denotes a middle-class Caracas neighborhood.

Bernal had told his wife he was on his way to a new job at a restaurant. But he stopped near a bank beneath a billboard advertising door-to-door delivery of scarce goods from Miami, a three-hour flight away.

A man in his 70s walked out, tucking a stack of bills worth $5 into a hat that he then hid in his jacket.

It would have been a lot of money for Bernal. It could have bought his family a week’s worth of food. Or a plastic dining table. Or a proper school uniform for his daughter, whom the other kids were calling “stinky.”

Bernal grabbed the cash and started running toward a taxi line where dozens of motorcycles were parked, the robbery victim later told investigators. The man pursued him, crying “Thief!” People watching from a distance assumed they were racing to get in line to buy groceries.

In the meantime, the motorcycle drivers were sitting on a low wall in front of the supermarket, fiddling with cracked cellphones and drinking coffee from small plastic cups. They watched the pair come toward them.

When the beating began, workers at the curbside candy stalls and hot dog stands left their booths, not wanting to see what was coming. Other people stayed to watch and cheer.

Someone had the idea to siphon gasoline from a motorcycle tank into a soda bottle. As the smell of burning flesh filled the air, the crowd’s shouting turned to silence. Some onlookers took cellphone video of Bernal trying to stand as tall flames consumed his head.

He would likely have died there, begging for water to quench the fire in the middle of some two dozen onlookers, if not for Alejandro Delgado. The youth pastor arrived for his part-time job as a motorcycle taxi driver just as the frenzy was reaching its peak. Horrified, Delgado whipped off his dusty black jacket and smothered the flames.

“These guys I work with every day had turned into demons,” he said. “I could hear the man’s flesh crackling and popping. When I put the fire out, they threw bottles at my head.”

Bernal was taken away in an ambulance on a cross-city quest to find a hospital with enough medical supplies to deal with his injuries. The videos spread across social media, but they drew curiously little condemnation. Even the trauma nurse who attended to Bernal thought a form of justice had been carried out.

“If the people grabbed him and lynched him, it’s because he was a thug,” said nurse Juan Perez, who has himself been robbed too many times to count.

When Bernal’s wife got the call, she assumed he had been burned at work. Arriving at the hospital, she walked right past his charred body, and then doubled back to ask, “Are you Roberto?”

His eyes had been seared shut, and his trachea was so scorched that he could only speak in whispers. He told her that the old man had mistaken him for the real thief, and his accusers had not given him time to explain. He died two days later.

Read the whole depressing story here.

socialism kills

DCG

Greens really are commies: 130 UN-backed green groups call for end of capitalism

Our suspicions are confirmed.

The green movement really is just the newest version of Marxist communism disguised as a concern for the environment.

At the end of a 4-day United Nations-backed conference, called the Social Pre-COP Preparatory Meeting, of 130 green activist groups in Venezuela, the groups issued a declaration that global warming climate change can only be “combated” by ending capitalism altogether.

Green commies celebrating Margarita DeclarationGreen commies celebrating the Margarita Declaration, July 18, 2014, Venezula.

The Margarita Declaration said: “The structural causes of climate change are linked to the current capitalist hegemonic system. To combat climate change it is necessary to change the system.”

That capitalism is the cause of “climate change” is also a position of the socialist Venezuelan government, the host of the meeting.

The declaration will be handed to environment government ministers when they meet ahead of the UN’s main round of climate talks in Lima this year.

The Social pre-COP meeting was the first time that NGOs (non-governmental organizations) were invited to participate with the UN at this scale at international climate talks. The government of Venezuela said the purpose of the meeting is to “set the basis of an alliance between peoples and governments”.

Ironically, although the Social pre-COP meeting was backed by the UN, the meeting’s end product of the Margarita Declaration opposes the views of the UN and many national governments on “combating” “climate change” via a capitalist “green economy” by encouraging green growth through carbon markets and clean energy investments.

Instead, the Margarita Declaration calls:

  • carbon markets a “false solution” to the problem of climate change. The UN has set up its own carbon market, called the Clean Development Mechanism, which allows developed countries to pay for projects that will reduce the carbon footprint of poor countries.
  • a UN-backed forest conservation scheme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation (REDD), “dangerous and unethical”. Under REDD, rich countries pay developing nations to preserve their forests, removing some of the financial incentive to chop them down. Deforestation is a significant contributor to climate change as it releases the carbon that is stored in trees.

Objections to the “green economy” prompted a walkout at the Rio+20 summit in 2012 because some developing countries wanted rich countries to simply hand over cash and “sustainable” technologies to poorer nations. Venezuela, a staunchly socialist government, has long opposed the “green economy” concept, alongside other Latin American countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.

Sophie Yeo of rtcc.org reports that a participant at the July 15-18 Social pre-COP meeting who insisted on his anonymity said that while most of the Venezuelan groups present at the meeting were supportive of the Venezulan government’s position, there were 34 Venezuelan NGOs who rejected their invitation to the gathering, due to concerns that it would provide an opportunity for the government to push their socialist agenda.

Here are some choice quotes from Margarita Declaration on Climate Change, Social PreCOP Preparatory Meeting, July 15-18, 2014, Margarita Island, Venezuela:

Pg. 2: “Men and women have become consumerist monsters that consume all the resources given by the Earth”. Génesis Carmona, aged 11, elected representative of the Venezuelan Children Environment Movements.

Pg. 3: The world needs corrective actions before damages become irreversible. We denounce the lack of political will of the wealthiest countries.

Pg. 3: Colonialism continues to operate. Climate change occurs within a historic context where a group of countries based their development on practices generating the current environmental crisis, including Climate Change, while others suffer the worst consequences. The developed countries causing the Climate Change intend to side-track the discussion towards technological or market solutions, thus eluding their historic responsibilities.

P. 3: The struggles of the South must be supported in the countries of the North. The wealthiest countries must commit themselves to finding a solution to the Climate Change. Youth in the North must exert pressure on their governments in that sense. There is not much time left, the global North must take on its historic responsibility and youth must exert pressure for this to happen.

Pg. 4: The main sources for climate crisis are the political and economic systems commercializing and reifying nature and life, thus impoverishing spirituality and imposing consumerism and developmentalism that generate unequal regimes and exploitation of resources. This global crisis is exacerbated by unsustainable practices of exploitation and consumption by the developed countries and the elites of the developing countries…. For such purposes, it is required that the developed countries meet their moral and legal obligations, especially vis-à-vis vulnerable and marginalized countries and communities by lifting barriers such as intellectual property rights which prevent the attainment of the preservation of life over the planet and the salvation of human species. We likewise urge them to comply with the financial contribution and the transfer of safe and locally suitable technologies free from barriers such as intellectual property rights….

pg. 5: According to scientific evidence, in order not to exceed 1.5 degrees increase of temperature, it becomes necessary not to produce 80% of the fossil fuel reserves known. For this purpose, the developed countries require to immediately reduce consumption and production of fossil fuels….

Pg. 6: We reject any attempt to implement or promote dangerous and unethical solutions or responses to Climate Change, solutions whereby wealthy industrialized countries and corporations ultimately seek to use climate change as a means for profit. Some of such false responses, such as carbon production and markets have caused damages in our forests and soils, whereas the implementation of the “United Nations Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD)” and the production of agrofuels, have already caused seizure and fragmentation of lands.

Pg. 7: We demand the repair of historic debts, and reject the financing proposals which do not bring about effective transformations for a sustainable solution.

Pg. 9: It is necessary that the ancestral knowledge of the Peoples be deemed as equally important and valuable as scientific knowledge for decision-making and for actions against climate change by the UN and by the governments.

Pg. 10: The structural causes for climate change are linked to the current capitalist hegemonic system. Fighting the climate change involves changing the system.

Pg. 10: The change of the system must provide for a transformation of the economic, political, social and cultural systems at local, national, regional and global levels.

Pg. 11: We reject the implementation of false solutions to climate change, such as: carbon markets and other forms of privatization and commodification of life; geo-engineering, agrofuels productions, and measures favoring agribusiness and harming the production of food in an agro ecological manner, such as the use of transgenic seeds and agrotoxics, synthetic fertilizers and any other measure lessening the priority of the right to Good Living, health and the eradication of poverty enshrined in the Convention. We likewise reject the green economy, the intellectual property rights; the mega water dam projects, monocultures and nuclear energy.

Pg. 12: Ensure the financing by the developed countries to developing countries for such transformations, and for compensation and rehabilitation of the impacts of Climate Change. Financing must not be conditioned, and the management of the funds supplied shall be in the hands of the Peoples. The financing of mitigation and adaptation actions by the developed countries in the developing countries is a moral and legal obligation under the Convention by virtue of the historic responsibilities of the former. Funding must be reliable, predictable, sufficient and adequate. All obligations of the countries in the North in relation to finance, technology transfer and support for the compensation of losses and damages should be legally binding under the Climate Change Convention.

Click here to read the English version of the 13-page Margarita Declaration.

Among the 130 green activist groups that participated in the Social Pre-COP meeting are such well-known groups as:

  • Christian Aid
  • Climate Action Network
  • East Michigan Environmental Action Council (Grassroots Global Justice Alliance)
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Third World Network
  • World Wide Fund for Nature WWF International
  • Young Friends of the Earth

For the full list of groups, click here.

~Eowyn

Ain’t socialism grand?

toilet paper

Now Venezuela is running out of toilet paper

KATU: First milk, butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short. Now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities – toilet paper.

Blaming political opponents for the shortfall, as it does for other shortages, the embattled socialist government says it will import 50 million rolls to boost supplies.

That was little comfort to consumers struggling to find toilet paper on Wednesday. “This is the last straw,” said Manuel Fagundes, a shopper hunting for tissue in downtown Caracas. “I’m 71 years old and this is the first time I’ve seen this.”

One supermarket visited by The Associated Press in the capital on Wednesday was out of toilet paper. Another had just received a fresh batch, and it quickly filled up with shoppers as the word spread. “I’ve been looking for it for two weeks,” said Cristina Ramos. “I was told that they had some here and now I’m in line.”

Economists say Venezuela’s shortages stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government’s controls on foreign currency.

State-controlled prices – prices that are set below market-clearing price – always result in shortages. The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union,” said Steve Hanke, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University.

President Nicolas Maduro, who was selected by the dying Hugo Chavez to carry on his “Bolivarian revolution,” claims that anti-government forces, including the private sector, are causing the shortages in an effort to destabilize the country.

The government this week announced it would import 760,000 tons of food and 50 million rolls of toilet paper.

Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming blamed the shortage of toilet tissue on “excessive demand” built up as a result of “a media campaign that has been generated to disrupt the country.”

“The revolution will bring the country the equivalent of 50 million rolls of toilet paper,” he was quoted as saying Tuesday by state news agency AVN. “We are going to saturate the market so that our people calm down.”

Finance Minister Nelson Merentes said the government was also addressing the lack of foreign currency, which has resulted in the suspension of foreign supplies of raw materials, equipment and spare parts to Venezuelan companies, disrupting their production. “We are making progress … we have to work very hard,” Merentes told reporters Wednesday.

Many factories operate at half capacity because the currency controls make it hard for them to pay for imported parts and materials. Business leaders say some companies verge on bankruptcy because they cannot extend lines of credit with foreign suppliers.

Merentes said the government had met the U.S. dollar requests of some 1,500 small- and medium-sized companies facing supply problems, and was reviewing requests from a similar number of larger companies.

Chavez imposed currency controls a decade ago trying to stem capital flight as his government expropriated large land parcels and dozens of businesses.

Anointed by Chavez as his successor before the president died from cancer, Maduro won a close presidential election April 14 against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who refused to accept the result, claiming Maduro won through fraud and voter intimidation. He filed a complaint to the Supreme Court, asking for the vote to be annulled, though that’s highly unlikely to happen since the court is packed with government-friendly justices.

Patience is wearing thin among consumers who face shortages and long lines at supermarkets and pharmacies. Last month, Venezuela’s scarcity index reached its highest level since 2009, while the 12-month inflation rate has risen to nearly 30 percent. Shoppers often spend several days looking for basic items, and stock up when they find them.

Fleming, the commerce minister, said monthly consumption of toilet paper was normally 125 million rolls, but that current demand “leads us to think that 40 million more are required.”

“We will bring in 50 million to show those groups that they won’t make us bow down,” he said.

DCG

Rejoice! One of Satan’s spawn has gone home

Chavez

O Joyous Day.

Venezuela’s socialist dictator Hugo Chavez just croaked.

Only 58 years old, Sean Penn’s best bud died today in Caracas of complications from an unspecified cancer in his pelvic area.

Penn and Chavez, Dumb and Dumber

Penn and Chavez, Dumb and Dumber

Read more, here.

H/t James Habermehl

~Eowyn