Venezuela is out of food, out of medicine, and running out of gas

Ed wrote last week about the shortage of bread in Venezuela which led the country’s Vice President to announce spot checks on bakeries designed to ensure they weren’t doing anything illegal with their flour. If that sounds like a bad joke it is, but it’s also true. Bakers in Venezuela were even arrested for making brownies instead of price controlled loaves of bread.

It’s not just food that the country is running out of these days. The Associated Press reports President Maduro is now turning to the United Nations for help with medical supplies:

“I’ve asked for support from the U.N. to help treat economic and social injuries that have hit our people caused by the economic war and the sharp fall in petroleum prices,” Maduro said in a televised appearance Friday…

Maduro’s socialist administration prides itself on being a provider of humanitarian aid to poor nations around the world. Even as he called Friday for the U.N.’s assistance, his aides were hosting a business forum called “Venezuelan Powerhouse” and the military was dispatching two cargo planes of emergency supplies, including some medicine, for victims in Peru of that nation’s worst flooding in two decades.

But even more embarrassing for the socialist state is the fact that the country with the largest proven oil reserves in the world is now running out of gasoline. From Bloomberg:

“Yesterday, I went to three filling stations and I couldn’t fill my tank,” Freddy Bautista, a 26-year-old student, said in an interview while waiting outside of a gas station in the Las Mercedes area of eastern Caracas on Thursday. “I’ve been waiting 30 minutes here, and it seems like I’ll be able to fill up today.”

As the company’s crumbling refineries fail to meet domestic demand, imports have become a financial burden because the country buys fuel abroad at market prices only to sell it for pennies per gallon at home. PDVSA, as the state-run producer is known, has been reducing the money-losing imports as it prepares for $2 billion in bond payments due next month, said Jose Brito, an opposition lawmaker on the National Assembly’s oil commission.

Brito tells Bloomberg News, “It’s unbelievable that this is happening in an oil producing country.” Meanwhile, the Organization of American States is calling on Maduro’s government to hold elections and to free political prisoners including Leopoldo Lopez. Lopez is an opposition political leader who was imprisoned on charges of inciting violence against the government. Last year the opposition party tried to get a referendum on President Maduro on the ballot but the effort was abruptly canceled by Maduro’s cronies.

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