It can be hard to get reliable news from Venezuela thanks to their state-sponsored media. That, and it's a
global security threat? nominally socialist country, and those are unpopular with Latin expats.
As a result of Chavez's policies, Venezuela has miraculously taught 1.482 million people to read and produced a 98% literacy rate! They also have longer lifespans, presuming of course that they don't criticize the government or get recruited/mowed down by a colectivo (state-sponsored biker gangs who have better hardware than the police). Of course the Interior Minister assures us that crime is down
5% 30% 60%. However, when oil prices started to tank around 2014 and Chavez died around the same time, it all went to shit.
Venezuela is a huge exporter of petroleum. The Venezuelan government owns the oil company, PDVSA, which in turn owns Citgo. When you buy gas from Citgo, you're buying communism! Though since the alternatives though are the likes of ExxonMobil, BPAmocoArco, ConocoPhillips, MarathonAshland, UltramarDiamondShamrock, FinaTotal, and ChevronTexaco, maybe Citgo is not too awful a choice.
Venezuela is quickly running out of money and it's unlikely that the oil prices will ever go back up. At the same time, inflation is growing rapidly (70% a year), though the government forcibly says that 10 bolivar fuertes (their currency) is equal to $1 USD.
They basically have no options left, since their entire economy depends on oil. Pretty bad timing since their old refineries and tankers are breaking down, and they can't afford to maintain them. They can't diversify (despite Chavez's big talk) since they lack the facilities to refine their own crude, let alone manufacture it into oil-based products.. Worse yet, Venezuela's exports have become even more dependent on oil under Chavez then they were before and what little agriculture there was before is now so definitely wrecked, that Venezuela is a net importer (sometimes of nearly 100%) in most basic foodstuffs. The millions spent on diesel and natural gas power plants have curiously gone missing. Unless oil somehow bounces back up to over a $100, and the whole world forgets fracking exists, Venezuela is headed down.
Venezuela is what happens when people elect charming incompetents who then refuse to leave when asked. In fact, their Finance Minister denies the very concept of inflation. And their Environmental Minister denies that zoo animals dying is related to food shortages. They're like Wile E. Coyote having run off the edge of a cliff. As soon as they admit to the facts, everything will start falling so it's better to just believe the lie.
Officially recognized Monopoly money
At the same time the government is mismanaging the economy (for ideological reasons), the exchange-rate is being used a money laundering scheme for drug traffickers and the nation's elites. The government gets money by selling oil. They turn around and give the money to importers in exchange for Bolivar. The importers were supposed to take that money and import goods, but instead they pocketed no less than $122 Billion of it. That's just what we know of, we don't know where the rest went.
Now, let's say you're an importer of medicine. You go to the government and say you want to import antibiotics at $1 US dollar per unit. The government agrees, and gives you $100,000 US dollars in exchange for anywhere between 400,000 and 1,000,000 bolivars. That's great, except you're actually buying the antibiotics for $0.10 per unit. So you only spend $10,000 on antibiotics, but tell the government that you spent it all. The other $90,000 is offloaded on the black market at 2000 bolivars per dollar or more. Rinse and repeat. Congratulations, you now have zillions of bolivar fuentes and have helped contribute to the hyperinflation of Venezuela.
I drink your milkshake
The army has shown that, if they feel like it, they'll "expropriate" private property. Now, while it can seem revolutionary and fun, the downside is that nobody is going to invest any serious amount of money in a new industry, because they can't be certain the government won't suck it up.
Just as Argentina claims the Falkland Islands as theirs, Venezuela also claims two thirds of neighbouring country to the east Guyana, what Venezuela calls Guayana Esequiba (after the Esequibo River, whose basin lies largely there).
Of course, just like in Argentina, the Venezuelan government waves the Guayana Esequiba flag whenever there's a problem at home so that they can distract the people.
Notas al pie
- "U.S. declares Venezuela a national security threat, sanctions top officials", Reuters (9 March 2015, 5:43pm EDT).
- Ramsey Geoffrey, "Children armed with assault weapons spark controversy in Venezuela", Reuters 3 February 2012.
- Patricia Torres and Nicholas Casey, "Armed Civilian Bands in Venezuela Prop Up Unpopular President", NYT 22 April 2017.
- Hernández A., Gustavco, "Another ordinary night in Caracas…", Caracas Chronicles 30 November 2012.
- Cawley, Marguerite, "Venezuela Gov't Claims Homicides Down 30%; Really?", Insight Crime 13 December 2013.
- Wells, Miriam, "Venezuela Government Admits Keeping Crime Figures Secret",Insight Crime 13 July 2013.
- "Venezuela oil refineries face operating woes, PDVSA launches tenders", Reuters (26 April 2016, 5:42pm EDT).
- Gramer, Robbie, "Venezuela Is So Broke It Can’t Even Export Oil", Foreign Policy (26 January 2017, 3:59 pm).
- "Chinese bullet train in Venezuela stalls as alliance derails", Business Standard (14 May 2016, last Updated 12:57 IST).
- Coggin, John, "Venezuela’s Oil Sword", International Policy Digest 26 May 2011.
- U.S. v. Rincon, Shiera Indictment
- Nasralla, Shala, "Venezuela finds new front in attack on U.S. fracking: water", Reuters (3 June 2015, 11:04am EDT).
- Ellsworth, Bryan, "For economy czar of crisis-hit Venezuela, inflation 'does not exist'", Reuters (7 January 2016, 1:32pm EST).
- Kai, Daniel, "Venezuela denies zoo animals starving, says one happy family", Reuters (1 Auguest 2016, 10:01pm EDT).
- "Venezuela currency tanks 60 percent in month on black market", Reuters (28 November 2016, 10:42am EST).
- Leff, Gary, "Mystery Solved: Flights Out of Venezuela Are Full — But Nobody Is Flying", View From the Wing 24 September 2013.
- Alvarado, Francisco,"How the Feds Blew a Case Against an Alleged South American Drug Money Launderer", Vice 14 January 2016, 9:30am.
- Campbell, Alexia, "Drug money laundered in South Florida fuels U.S.-Venezuela trade", Sun-Sentinel 18 December 2011.
- William Neuman and Patricia Torres, "Venezuela’s Economy Suffers as Import Schemes Siphon Billions", NYT 5 May 2015.
- "Venezuelan Private Sector Siphoned Off $259B in Public Funds", TeleSUR 19 June 2016.
- Chinea, Eyanir, "Venezuela ex-ministers seek probe into $300 billion in lost oil revenue", Reuters (2 February 2016, 1:31pm EST.
- "Venezuela Investigates 7,000 Companies for Currency Scams", TeleSUR 14 April 2015.
- Lohmann, Dietrich, "Venezuela's Health Care Crisis", Human Rights Watch ()>
- Buitrago, Daisy, "Chavez orders army to seize Venezuela rice mills", (28 February 2009, 3:28pm EST).
- Sanchez, Fabiola, "Venezuela's farm seizures show little results", San Diego Union-Tribune via Associated Press (24 May 2009, 8:58 am).
- Cawthorne, Andrew, "Venezuela takes over brewer's land, sugar mills", Reuters (28 April 2010, 4:52pm EDT).
- Crooks, Nathan, "Venezuela Expanding Military Influence Over Oil and Mining", Bloomberg (12 February 2016, 7:11 AM PST).
- Expropriate it!"
- "The Sickly Stench of Corruption", Economist via The Americas 30 March 2006.
- Editorial board, "Venezuela's Military Needs to Get Out of Business", Bloomberg (6 May 2016, 10:42 AM EDT).