Socialism continues to doom millions of Venezuelans to an uncertain fate. The situation is so grave that food trafficking is now a bigger illegal business than drug trafficking. From the Associated Press:
With much of the country on the verge of starvation and billions of dollars at stake, food trafficking has become one of the biggest businesses in Venezuela, the AP found. And from generals to foot soldiers, the military is at the heart of the graft, according to documents and interviews with more than 60 officials, business owners and workers, including five former generals…
“Lately, food is a better business than drugs,” said retired Gen. Cliver Alcala, who helped oversee Venezuela’s border security. “The military is in charge of food management now, and they’re not going to just take that on without getting their cut.”
After opposition attempts to overthrow him, the late President Hugo Chavez began handing the military control over the food industry, creating a Food Ministry in 2004. His socialist-run government nationalized farms and food processing plants, then neglected them, and domestic production dried up. Oil-exporting Venezuela became dependent on food imports, but when the price of oil collapsed in 2014, the government no longer could afford all the country needed.
That one highlighted sentence carries with it a load of unexplored baggage about the fundamental nature of socialism. Chavez was, after all, elected to his position, as was his incompetent successor Nicolas Maduro. Both were cheered on in their expropriation of private industry by a majority of Venezuelans who now find themselves on the verge of starvation and at the mercy of a military in control of their food.
And why was the military put in control of food? Because the military is the last line of defense for any autocrat. Allowing the military to overcharge for food is one way to ensure the revolution is not interrupted by a coup.
Meanwhile, in addition to triple-digit inflation the country also has the second highest murder rate in the world. So many murders go unsolved that people have turned to lynch mobs to seek justice. Reuters reported Wednesday that one person is killed by a mob every three days in Venezuela:
The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV), which monitors crime, said mob killings have become a generalized phenomenon across the country, with 126 deaths reported in 2016 versus 20 last year.
“Due to being repeated victims of crime for more than a decade, and the feeling of not being protected, many people have decided to take justice into their own hands,” the OVV said in its latest annual report.
In the past, it said, lynchings of suspected murderers and rapists were relatively uncommon, but this year angry crowds have increasingly attacked petty criminals too, with police often turning a blind eye.
The impending collapse is so inevitable now that an increasing number of Venezuelans are simply leaving everything behind. But as Bloomberg reports, this exodus isn’t just the wealthy and well-off, these are the people who voted for Chavez and Maduro:
This is not the life Edgar Leon hoped for when he voted for the socialist revolution of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela — standing on a street corner in the Dominican Republic selling snacks and lemonade out of a bucket to support his wife and children back home.
“We were a rich nation,” said Leon. “This is an embarrassment. I never wanted to leave my country.”
He’s one of the record number of Venezuelans who arrived in the Dominican Republic this year, escaping chronic shortages and spiraling prices back home. But these latest emigrants aren’t the Venezuelan doctors, lawyers and university students of the kind who can be found working in cities from Santiago to Miami. The streets of Santo Domingo are hosting a new group of emigrants — the very people who were meant to benefit from subsidized food, cheap housing, labor protection and free education guaranteed by Chavez’s government.
Leon has no plans to return to Venezuela. He hopes instead to be able to afford a larger apartment so he can bring his family to live with him in the Dominican Republic. Speaking of his home country, he tells Bloomberg, “I can’t go back there, not how it is now.” “It’s a disaster,” he adds.