Tag Archives: Venezuela

Venezuela crisis forces women to sell sex in Colombia, fuels slavery risk

sean_penn_hugo_chavez_not_a_dictato

Sean Penn and BFF Hugo Chavez

Hey Sean Penn, when are you going to come to the aid of these victims?

From Fox News: As a humanitarian and political crisis in neighboring Venezuela deepens, a growing number of Venezuelan women are working in bars and brothels across Colombia.

“I didn’t do this in Venezuela. I never ever imagined I’d be doing this in Colombia,” said Maria, who declined to give her real name, to Reuters. She charges $17 for 15-minutes of sex, and the money earned is spent on buying medicine for her mother who has cancer.

For the past year, she has traveled back and forth from Bogota to Venezuela’s capital Caracas every 90 days, before her tourist visa expires, carrying medicine, food and soap. “I’m ashamed I have to do this. It’s a secret,” said Maria, 26, who has told her family she is a traveling salesperson.

Venezuelan migrants are often lured by false promises of well-paid work in Colombia’s restaurants and bars or as domestic workers. But then they find they are forced to work long hours with little or no pay, are not free to leave the bar they work in, and may be trapped by debts owed to the agents who brought them across the border.

According to Asmubuli, a Colombian sex workers association, currently there are around 4,500 Venezuelan sex workers in the country.

Fidelia Suarez, head of the sex workers association, cited the case of 11 Venezuelan women trapped in a dingy bar in Colombia’s northern city of Bucaramanga. At first, she said, the women were allowed to come and go as they pleased, but in February the bar owner seized their documents, withheld their wages, and prevented them from leaving the bar.

“That’s slavery,” said Suarez, who has visited the bar. “They are enslaved there, under the conditions and rules decided by the owner, which aren’t legal.”

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have crossed into Colombia in the past year, as triple-digit inflation, a collapsed health system and weeks of violent protests engulfs oil-rich Venezuela.

As prostitution is legal in Colombia it makes it difficult for society to see sex workers as victims of trafficking, and a blurry line often exists between those who voluntarily engage in adult prostitution and those coerced into sex work.

It’s not just women who say they have no option but to sell their bodies for sex, but young Venezuelan men too.

Dorian, 25, started working in Bogota’s Lourdes Park about two weeks ago. “It’s disappointing. I’m disappointed in myself,” said Dorian, a business studies university graduate unable to find a job and with no money to pay for rent and food.

He left Venezuela six months ago, after a close friend was shot dead by gang members on his way home from a party. “It could have been me. I knew then that I had to flee, that I was in danger,” said Dorian, dressed in tight white trousers. “The economic instability, the insecurity in Venezuela, it all becomes unbearable.”

DCG

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Venezuelan women flock to Colombia border town to sell hair

Aint’ socialism grand?

socialism

From Yahoo: LA PARADA, Colombia (Reuters) – Women from crisis-hit Venezuela are crossing the border in droves and selling their hair in a Colombian border town in order to afford scarce basic necessities such as food, diapers or medicines.

The trend, which has taken off in recent weeks, is another sign of the oil-rich country’s deepening crisis amid shortages and spiraling inflation that have millions skipping meals and forgoing costly medical treatment.

Dozens of middlemen, known as “draggers,” stand on a bridge linking San Antonio, Venezuela, to Colombia’s La Parada, calling out: “We buy hair!”

Some 200 women a day are taking up their offer at one of seven makeshift stands dotting La Parada, according to estimates from five middlemen. The locks are then sold as extensions in the western Colombian city of Cali.

Celina Gonzales, a 45-year-old street vendor, stood in line for an hour to sell her mid-length brown hair for 60,000 Colombian pesos, or about $20 – the equivalent of a monthly minimum wage and food tickets back home. “I suffer arthritis and I need to buy medicine. This won’t be much, but at least I can buy painkillers,” said Gonzales, who had not told her family what she was doing.

Venezuela’s leftist government blames the crisis on businessmen waging an “economic war” to sabotage it. The Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

As the economy teeters under a third year of recession, Venezuelans are increasingly ending up empty-handed despite long lines for heavily-subsidized food. Non-subsidized food is far too expensive, with a bag of rice sometimes costing around a tenth of monthly earnings.

Many are forced to survive on starches or forage through garbage for scraps. In recent months, hundreds have drifted across to Colombia to buy groceries.

In the border towns, the hair business is booming. “I can take off volume, cut strands here and there or make a ponytail and cut all the hair,” explained Jenifer Nino, 31, a so-called dragger, as she stood next to informal hair salons housed on street corners, sidewalks and even a tire store. “Most of the women come here with little kids and after cutting their hair they go buy food,” Nino added.

Some women complain the haircuts are sloppy and end up regretting the decision, while others are turned away. Maribel, a poor woman from Venezuela’s Tachira state traveled to Colombia after her brother told her about the hair business. “I’m here because I have nothing to eat,” she said, but was later rebuffed because her hair was too short and thin.

DCG

Hollyweird Jaime Foxx visits with President Maduro in crumbling Venezuela

Another useful idiot to put on my list of do-no-see-actors and their movies. FYI: Foxx is worth a purported $100 MILLION.

jamie-fox-visits-venezuela

From Fox News: Amid widespread unrest, massive shortages of food and basic supplies and a crumbling economy, on Tuesday Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro took the time to rub shoulders with two visiting Hollywood luminaries.

Jamie Foxx and actor/musician Lukas Haas paid a visit to the embattled head of state at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas. Maduro reportedly invited the pair so they could visit the government-funded film and TV studio, Fundación Villa del Cine, and other tourist attractions in the socialist nation.

Neither Foxx nor Haas spoke to the media during their visit, but Venezuelan media reported that the movie stars were in the country to “show support for the policies of the Bolivarian Government, in particular its social missions,” and “to learn about Venezuela’s Great Housing Mission,” a project which has purportedly built more than a million government-funded homes.

The actors were also invited by Maduro to attend the signing of an agreement between Venezuela and Jordan, Dubai and Italy for the construction of 13,912 homes in the central state of Aragua.

“We have given a warm welcome to two actors who are very admired by our people … Thank you for supporting this project, and its vision to add housing as a benefit for the people of the world,” Maduro said on state-owned VTV.

The high-profile visit didn’t sit well with members of the opposition, who could only speculate as to how the pricey bill was paid — as the country’s continues along in financial dire straits.

Venezuelan congressman Carlos Berrizbeitia told Fox News Latino that it would be very hard to know whether the government spent public money to make this visit possible.

“If they financed it using intermediaries it would be really hard to find out,” said Berrizbeitia, a member of the National Assembly’s finance committee. “They typically say that the actors pay for their trips, but we don’t really know if that’s true.”

Berrizbeitia also speculated that the real intention for Foxx and Haas’ visit to the socialist nation was to prepare a new TV production about the life of late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez to compete with the Telemundo’s “El Comandante,” also based on Chavez’s life.

Photos circulating on social media show Maduro posing for photos with Foxx and Haas, escorting them on a tour of the Miraflores palace and holding a meeting with them alongside first lady, Cilia Flores; the country’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez; the governor of Aragua, Tarek El Aissami; and the Minister of the Interior, Carmen Meléndez.

“We have been chatting and in these two actors I see two extraordinary people – really, very human, very sensitive – taking part in these projects that seek the well-being of the peoples of the world,” Maduro said.

jamie-fox-opposes-venezuela

The visit to Venezuela appears to be an abrupt change of face for Foxx, who two years ago was photographed alongside a group of opposition activists while holding a sign that read, “#IMYOURVOICEVENEZUELA #SOSVENEZUELA VENEZUELA.”

The photo appeared on March of 2014 around the time when Venezuela was rocked by a wave of anti-government protests following the arrest and imprisonment of opposition leader Leopoldo López.

Foxx isn’t the first Hollywood A-lister to visit the socialist nation – Sean Penn, Danny Glover and director Oliver Stone have all made trips to the country – but his visit comes at a time when Maduro’s rule is being heavily challenged.

Sean Penn and BFF Hugo Chavez

Sean Penn and BFF Hugo Chavez

DCG

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

See also:

 

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.

See also:

DCG

Saturday funnies!


DCG

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