VENEZUELA: No food, just looting: The Hot Start to 2018

POSTED BY Mabel SarmientoCARACAS CHRONICLES
Translation: Nina Rancel


Editor’s note: our contacts in Venezuela have to rely on wi-fi when they can find it to use the internet. We heard from one of them during Christmas and New Year, the other has not been heard from nor posted anything on Facebook since the middle of December. For now, we are relying on English-translated content while we keep attempting to contact our 2 contacts – and hopefully gain more contacts in the coming weeks. Please keep all Venezuelans and the country of Venezuela in your thoughts and prayers.


On the streets of Caracas, you hear it again and again: “this is gonna blow.”

Del dicho al hecho, un solo trecho, [ From the saying to the fact, only one stretch, ] since shortages and the high prices of food on these first 6 days of 2018 have done some damage to worker’s pockets and caused rioting and saqueos [ looting ] in several regions of the country.

Events that, if it weren’t for social media and coverage from independent media outlets, would be completely ignored or dismissed.

The topic is not discussed in mainstream or official media nor in Maduro´s government cabinet.

A Country Up In Flames

Protests in Venezuela have been constant. 2017 saw high levels of social and political conflict: from April to July, there were 4,182 protests, 42 per day, let’s not even discuss that 157 people were murdered by the savage repression from the government; when the Plan Zamora was activated, a security mechanism to defeat the alleged coup d’état.

And even though people eventually came to fear the National Guard, it was hunger that rekindled the protests.

December ended with action on the streets and January 2018 has been following that trend.

Because they want food, people in Bolívar, Zulia, Valencia, Aragua, Miranda, Trujillo, Monagas and Distrito Capital have taken to the streets and looted over 30 businesses that sell food and clothing (20 of those just in Bolívar state).

Dozens of people have been taken into custody and one pregnant woman was shot dead.

Overcoming The News Blackout

As a way to break the information barrier, the news have flooded with photos and videos every group chat in Whatsapp and social media.

Amid increasingly stringent censorship over traditional broadcast outlets, this kind of peer-to-peer news sharing has become pivotal Venezuela.

Mainstream media has gone silent, under pressure from the so-called Law Against Hatred, passed last November, and whose sole goal is to criminalize critical expression and to snuff out the right to peaceful protest.

If this kind of news is covered on an independent TV station, the words “loots” and “riots” are replaced by the time-worn euphemism: “situación irregular”.

[ irregular situation ]

Spots, when they are aired, seldom last more than a few seconds.

That’s why the average citizen thinks twice about taking to the streets.

What we’re witnessing is the spontaneous complaint of  many people who are hungry, who can’t get cash, who can’t even buy from the bachaquero, who can’t fill up a tank of gas and who can’t find transportation to their homes, elements that are part of the socio-economic crisis and began 15 years ago with the foreign currency control regime that Chávez imposed.

Legal Looting

And while looting attempts spread all through Caracas, representatives of the Superintendencia Nacional para la Defensa de los Derechos Socioeconómicos, Sundee, [ National Superintendence for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights, Sundee, ] visited on January 5th several supermarket chains and forced them to lower their prices by 50%.

People started queuing up overnight, to be able to grab what they could afford on Saturday, 6th.

It’s a way of legally looting, part of the government’s bid for control over people through food…

… even if it means bankrupting private companies and hobble domestic production.

For the government, the social and humanitarian crises don’t exist.

In a mandatory cadena address [ chain address ], Maduro offered a Bs. 500,000 bonus ($6.65) to 8 million people with carnets de la patria [ carnets of the fatherland ]a sum that’s now good for one kilo of cheese and one kilo of beef [ 1 kilo = 2.2 lbs, 9-15 servings at most, depending on size ].

But on the streets of Venezuela, a social explosion is in the air.

“Hunger doesn’t wait,” I overheard someone standing in line to buy eggs say.

The famous old slogan “con hambre y sin empleo con Chávez me resteo,” looks like a distant memory now { hungry and unemployed with Chavez I rested ].

From a Comment by MRubio in the Caracas Chronicles

My woman went on a buying trip yesterday with her daughter to Maturin and they actually managed to find some products.

I was shocked at the new prices.

Here are just a few examples [ XE.com has the conversion rate at 1 Bs to US$0.100125 .

The minimum wage in Venezuela — IF you are fortunate enough to have a job — was 65,000 Bs and has been mandate to near 110,000 Bs, apologies as I do not have an exact figure ]…

Galleta Maria which we sold last week at 3,500 bs, now 8,000 bs  [ Galleta Maria is a common biscuit, cracker, cookie – similar to a buttermilk biscuit US$350 > $800 ]

Sopa Maggi which we sold a couple of weeks ago at 3,800 bs, now 28,000 bs [ US$380 > $2,800 ]

Cubito which we sold at 2,000 bs each 2 weeks ago, now 6,000 bs each [ US$200 > 600 ]

2 liter coca cola that we sold for 15,000 bs a month ago is now 85,000 bs [ US$1,500 > $8,500 ]

Cheetos that we sold for 7,500 bs last month now 15,000 bs [ US$750 > $1,500 ]

Pepito that we sold for 3,000 bs last month is now 10,000 bs [ US$300 > $1,000 ]

Sardines that we sold for 7,000 bs in early December, now 30,000 bs [ US$700 > $3,000 ]

Chee-weez which we sold in November at 8,000 bs, now 50,000 bs [ US$800 > $5,000 ]

Jabon azul which we sold for 20,000 bs in December is now 80.000 bs. [ US$2,000 > $8,000 ]

Disposable razors that we sold at 18,000 bs in December are now 38,000 bs. [ US$1,800 > $3,800 ]

Casabe which we sold last week at 7,000 bs per torta is now 10,000 bs. [ US$700 > $1,000 ]

Venezuelan readers will recognize all of these products, some considered essential for getting by on a daily basis.

Sugar has more than doubled in the last month to reach 75,000 bs if you’re lucky enough to find it [US$7,500 per kilo or 2.2 pounds].

Rice, spaghetti, and butter are nowhere to be found.

[Editor’s note: Rice is a staple in the Latin American diet.]

When I saw these prices last night I commented to my lady that I just don’t see how these people can survive this……where will they get the physical cash and how can they possibly afford these prices?

Many are surviving by buying only a fraction of what they purchased before….a cuadra of casabe [ block of casabe ], a teta of sugar, a teta of coffee, even a teta of cooking oil.

For those who don’t know the term “teta”, it’s basically when a product is sold in small quantities in a tiny plastic bag…….compress the product into one corner of the bag and you get something that looks like a small tit, or teta.

Of course, these tiny amounts of product are generally sold with huge markups over the bulk price.

Other than selling a cuadra of casabe, we don’t generally sell tetas of anything… the bags are now too expensive.

Imagine buying and handling a teta of cooking oil.

I never cease to be amazed.

 

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