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Venezuela: from bad, to worse to hell

Editorial Staff

It would be easy to say that there are no words to describe the horror of Venezuela's descent into civil and economic chaos, but in fact there are many words, mostly now abandoning political analysis and reporting on the increasingly desperate state of a country that, only a decade ago, was rich enough to sell heavily subsidised oil to Cuba. Except that it wasn't properly rich: Venezuela was pretending to be socialist while spending revenues from an increasingly precarious oil industry and now the money has all but dried up leaving its people subject to horrors that are reminiscent of war. [This article has been made available free]

Would you imagine that a country in which its citizens are supposedly free is subject to a form of martial law under which soldiers raid bakeries to ensure that the owners are baking bread not cakes? Four bakers were arrested in the week ended 17th March for making too many brownies because a law requires that 90% of wheat flour must be used for bread. Worse, bakers say that the flour which is available is poor quality and some is stale.

President Nicolás Maduro, whose socialist party was roundly defeated in elections in 2015 has blocked "every single law" approved by the National Assembly since the former opposition coalition won. "In Venezuela 82% of people live in poverty" wrote Reynaldo Trombetta, a Venezuelan journalist now in voluntary exile in the UK.

Within the last week, the Organisation of American States has issued its Human Rights report and Venezuela remains listed. It's been there since 2002. It mentions “a deterioration of the rule of law and democratic institutions" and human rights abuses of those who criticise Maduro.

An undercover investigation by Australia's ABC broadcast in the last ten days or so says "It has the biggest oil reserves on the planet. But instead of living like Middle Eastern sheiks, many Venezuelans are on the brink of famine. The economy is in ruins, the currency is all but worthless, shops are empty and people queue for subsidised food rations to survive." It is a harrowing report of the privations of the citizenry that smack of cold-war Russia or even third world conditions, for which the catalyst has been falling oil prices.

At The News Without The Crap we like to present both sides of the story but in this case there is only one side.

It's a catastrophic failure of two successive leaders, Chavez and Maduro. Foreign journalists are all but banned. The currency has collapsed and report after report says that those interviewed have no hope that Presidential elections will be permitted. In the meantime, Maduro is ruling in an authoritarian fashion with punishment beatings being meted out by the National Guard at his say-so. Some foreign broadcasts are being blocked and broadcast media is state controlled. Independent print / internet media is likely to be run from outside the country with stories produced by clandestine locals. The control of the media has been increasing since 2004.

It's not as if the Maduro plan is to help: General Motors (GM) says that its plant in Valencia was "was unexpectedly taken by the public authorities, preventing normal operations. In addition, other assets of the company, such as vehicles, have been illegally taken from its facilities."

That, many will consider, is very similar to the actions of Cuba in seizing US owned companies and Iran which did the same, causing long-term economic battles between those countries and the USA. But there is a difference: in Venezuala, it's being done at a time when the country is already beyond economic and political recovery in any reasonable time.

US President Obama issued an Executive Order in March 2015 under which individuals contributing to the deterioration of the country and human rights abuses were specifically targeted.

Now, it is reported, that this week, cross-party support was given to a Senate Bill that would provide narrowly targetted aid to the poorest and most vulnerable and apply further targeted sanctions against "government officials who are suspected of involvement in corruption and the drug trade."



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