Shouldn't It Go Up?
We’ll be heading Down The Rabbit Hole shortly but first…G Zero had an interesting chart of Venezuela’s per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product) over the Chavismo years and 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism. Here are a couple of takeaways :
First is that per capita GDP is lower today than when Hugo Chavez took power more than two decades ago, promising he would lift the country out of poverty.
Second is that per capita GDP fell for 8 straight years under Nicolas Maduro, climbed back up a little in the last year or so, and is now basically flat. Here’s a good question for ya’. With over 7.1 million Venezuelan migrants having fled the Maduro regime and 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism (and the migration continues) shouldn’t per capita GDP go up? Per capita is “per person”, right? So, with over 20% less people shouldn’t the per capita GDP be 20% higher, even without economic growth?
Then we have AP reporting that Tomeu Vadell, one of the Citgo oil executives who was held for nearly 5 years in a Venezuela prison, has sued the company for $100 million.
He alleges that Citgo conspired in his detention, as well as the other executives dubbed “The Citgo Six”, and then abandoned him and his family as he wasted away in horrific prison conditions for a crime he didn’t commit.
Vadell’s lawyers say he and the other 5 members of “The Citgo Six” were lured by the company, a fully-controlled subsidiary of PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company), to Venezuela so they could be arrested, detained, and used as political prisoners by the Maduro regime.
Well, let’s see here…6 executives living in Houston are summoned to an “emergency meeting” in Caracas, arrested by government officials as they’re getting off the plane, are tried and convicted of embezzlement in a trial marred by delays and irregularities, then thrown into prison for 5 years until Nicolas Maduro can get a prisoner exchange deal to his liking…hmm….Gee….I don’t know…what do you think?
Then we have Reuters reporting that expanded oil export contract reviews at PDVSA have nearly halted all commercial crude oil releases (again). Across Venezuela’s export terminals only 4 companies were active, NICO (Iran), Cubametales (Cuba), Chevron (US), and Hangzou (China).
This is causing a tanker bottleneck. Tankertrackers.com estimates there are 23 supertankers awaiting cargoes.
And we have IPS reporting that the Chilean government has tightened controls on it’s northern border to curtail the influx of migrants, especially Venezuelans. Some 600 military personnel will reinforce the police along Chile’s borders with Peru and Bolivia. This comes just days after a 22 year-old Venezuelan, proven drunk at the time, was arrested for running over and killing a police officer sparking a wave of xenophobia.
Now, let’s go Down The Rabbit Hole…
Chapter 4 continued…
…Then came March,2019. On March 7th the power went out in Caracas. No major concern, right? As if on cue the power returned after an hour or two. Life in the third world, right? Then the lights went out…and they stayed out. 23 of 25 states were without power. The blackout lasted 5 days in Caracas, longer in some areas, and in places it was almost indefinite. A week later another less intense but still far-reaching blackout occurred lasting a couple of days. That was followed by a one day blackout in most of the country.
In a country already reeling from the most disastrous economy in it’s history and many believe in the history of the Western Hemisphere the effects were catastrophic. The food crisis in 2019 wasn’t like the food crisis in 2014 where there simply wasn’t any food on the shelves although many areas still suffered shortages. The problem in 2019 (which continues today) was that there was nothing affordable. Hyperinflation and devaluation of the local currency forced the average Venezuelan to live on 700 calories a day. More on that later. The transportation sector had collapsed along with the oil industry (creating gasoline shortages), healthcare, education, and others. Now no power. As bad as it was having to dig through garbage to survive they now had to do it in the dark!
The first day or two of the blackout (s) actually unified much of the population. Food that would spoil was cooked and shared by those with gas or access to wood/ charcoal fires. People shared candles, kerosene, lanterns, etc. Many neighbors became closer since they interacted more as they had to be outside. It was just too hot inside their homes. That positive effect was short-lived and soon desperation set in. After a couple of days it’s only human nature to wonder “How long is this going to last?” With little to no communication available via telephone, TV, radio, etc. people didn’t know when or if help was coming and they responded as people all too often do. Scenes all over the country looked like something out of “Mad Max”. It was a truly post-apocalyptic scenario.
Widespread looting was reported. Initially it was primarily food items but soon anything and everything were targeted. In Maracaibo alone over 500 stores and businesses were ransacked. The metro (subway) stopped running and the oil wells stopped pumping. Those with generators in their homes or businesses ran out of fuel. Back-up generator systems in hospitals broke down as they were meant to provide power for hours, not days. Surgeries in progress were completed with whatever lighting was available which in some cases meant using light from smartphones. No dialysis, no chemo, radiation therapy, etc. People trying to escape the heat by sleeping outside were robbed. It was a nightmare.
Another victim of the blackouts, which contributed to the post-apocalyptic scenario was commerce. Under the crunch of a cash shortage and with hyperinflation requiring large amounts of money for almost any transaction most purchases were made using debit cards or bank transfers using smartphones. No power meant no card readers and mostly no cell service so unless you had access to dollars or euros it was a blast from the past as people reverted to the barter system.
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