Violence in Venezuela is causing a wave of emigration and shortages of everything from rice to toilet paper. There is no end in sight for the protests which have become some of the deadliest in the nation’s history.
Venezuela’s population might finally be getting tired of what is known as Chavismo. Hugo Chavez, the former Venezuelan president, is dead and no longer around to push it. Fed up with the bottom dropping out of their economy, Venezuelans have slammed into Caracas’ streets to protest.
Vigilantes on motorcycles attacked anti-government protesters Wednesday. Firing into crowds, they started stampedes as people taking part in the biggest protest against current President Nicolas Maduro, fled for safety. Three people were killed by the volleys. As Venezuela continues to see violence, more people are expected to seek emigration and shortages of products will hinder day-to-day life.
More than 100 protesters had been sparring with law enforcement at the end of a spirited and often angry protest. The organizers represented the hard-line members of the opposition and roughly 10,000 people had joined in the protest.
One demonstrator was shot in the head as people fled in panic. While onlookers screamed “assassins”, others carried the 24-year-old to a police vehicle. His family later identified him as Bassil Da Costa, a marketing student.
A “revolutionary” known only by his nickname, Juancho, was also killed. National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said Juancho had been “…vilely assassinated…” A third demonstrator was also shot and killed as the protest moved towards the wealthy neighborhood of Chacao after sundown. The identity of the third person killed has not been released.
The US media has been quiet about the protests and the country’s economic collapse. Mainstream media in America has noted that Maduro has called the protests a “coup”. The Associated Press has been quiet other than to briefly describe the situation as an “inflation-plagued economy with worsening crime,” making the situation sound like America in the 70s.
In the quiet clubs of Caracas, there is no milk and the cappuccino makers have fallen quiet. The slums experience power failure every few days and the water stops running more often than that. Customers are trading information about where to buy groceries. One store has soap and another has rice. State-run stores and expensive, privately owned delicatessen are rapidly running out of all products and supplies.
Oil engineers have left for Calgary and the nation’s soap opera stars have fled for safety in Colombia and Mexico. In a nation obsessed with elaborate grooming, women have cut back to just one blow-dry each week. With inflation running over 50 percent, a thriving black market in currency exists. Individuals wishing to buy dollars can get 10 times a better rate on the black market than what the official rate is offering.
Meanwhile, advertising in the South American country is a study in contrasts. The nation’s national breakfast is arepas, a type of flatbread, yet there is no corn flour with which to make the meal. Television stations, all state-controlled, are filled with commercials that denounce capitalism and actors who talk about how they don’t hoard, but rather buy just what they need each day. Although billboards boast of how socialist Venezuela has never been in better shape, no one has toilet paper in the bathroom.
The expected apocalypse hasn’t hit yet. Delaying the impending crash is a form of insurance that other countries don’t have, one of the largest oil reserves in the world. Venezuela’s economic indicators aren’t logical and the global demand for oil has held off the final day of reckoning.
With the violence in Venezuela escalating, some are seeking safety through emigration and the ones left behind face continual shortages of life’s basic necessities.
By Jerry Nelson