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The Tragedy of Venezuela

By MbS following x   2018 May 27, 8:03pm 423 views   2 comments   watch   sfw   quote     share    


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When I arrived in Venezuela in 2013, the party was still on. Oil was fetching $100 a barrel, and Mr. Maduro’s populist government was showering petrodollars on everyone. The Caracas skyline was dotted with grandiose construction projects, steakhouses were buying vintage Scotch by the container load and hotels had to be reserved weeks in advance.

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What struck me on arriving was how little the Socialist leaders cared about even the appearances of equality. They showed up at press conferences in shantytowns in motorcades of brand new armored SUVs. They toured tumbledown factories on live state TV wearing Rolexes and carrying Chanel handbags. They shuttled journalists to decaying state-run oil fields on private jets with gilded toilet paper dispensers.

I got a taste of how the country’s rulers liked to live during my first assignment. It didn’t sound particularly promising: an event sponsored by the Central Bank of Venezuela to celebrate a local patron saint. I expected to be regaled with offhand inflation stats and the government’s plans for getting the country’s economic house in order. I showed up in a blazer and flannel slacks at the bank’s imposing modernist headquarters only to be shoved into the back of a commandeered ambulance with other reporters.

Sirens blazing, we snaked through the solid traffic of Caracas weekenders blasting reggaeton from their car windows. We descended through the emerald-colored mountains to the Caribbean hometown of the bank’s then-president, Nelson Merentes, where a beach party was in full tilt. Any lingering expectation of discussing monetary policy evaporated when the ambulance doors opened and a boy of about 8 in flip flops handed me a bottle of beer. It was 10 a.m.

In a nearby square, I found Mr. Merentes, a pudgy Hungarian-trained mathematician who was 59 years old at the time and ran the Venezuelan economy for a decade, waving maracas and dancing with a bevy of young women in tight denim shorts. It was the annual feast of his native village, and we were quickly submerged in the primal beat of dozens of giant tambourines beaten in unison.

The whole town spilled out on the streets for a disorienting, sweltering party. Everyone was drinking, dancing and laughing. Bottles of vintage scotch and Grey Goose, brought by the bank’s entourage, were circulating along with plastic bottles of cheap rum mixed with the creamy white tropical juice drunk by the locals.

It was the last year Venezuela’s economy would grow. By the end of 2018, it will have shrunk by an estimated 35% since 2013, the steepest contraction in the country’s 200-year history and the deepest recession anywhere in the world in decades. From 2014 to 2017, the poverty rate rose from 48% to 87%, according to a survey by the country’s top universities. Some nine out of 10 Venezuelans don’t earn enough to meet basic needs. Children die from malnutrition and medicine shortages. An estimated three million Venezuelans, 10% of the population, have left the country in the two decades of Socialist rule, almost half of them in the past two years, according to Tomás Páez, a researcher at the Central University of Venezuela.

Today, the streets of Naiguatá, the coastal town that hosted the central bank party, are largely empty, like those in the rest of Venezuela. Its once popular beach is littered with garbage and empty, even on weekends. The stalls that sold rum cocktails and fried corn pastries are closed.


The speed of the collapse has transformed the lives of millions of Venezuelans almost overnight. When I met social worker Jacqueline Zuñiga in the port city of La Guaira shortly after arriving, she had recently bought an apartment, had plastic surgery and taken a cruise ship to visit her parents’ native Colombia. She soon bought her first car. Her ticket out of one of Caracas’s worst slums had been joining the ruling Socialist Party and becoming a key party activist in La Guaira, organizing women’s cooperatives. Her new lifestyle had been made possible by subsidized loans and preferential exchange rates.

Today, Ms. Zuñiga is struggling to feed her family three meals a day. Her car is rusting away because of a lack of spare parts. The seaside restaurant where I used to meet her to discuss politics is closed
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https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-tragedy-of-venezuela-1527177202
1   APOCALYPSEFUCKisShostikovitch   ignore (34)   2018 May 27, 8:07pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

This is exactly why Social Security should be handed over to a Kazakh national Trump can trust.
2   MbS   ignore (3)   2018 May 27, 8:54pm   ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

APOCALYPSEFUCKisShostikovitch says
This is exactly why Social Security should be handed over to a Kazakh national Trump can trust.


Nah, Kazakhs don't know how to party. They are boring people.




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