October 21, 2016

VENEZUELA: Venezuela’s Moves Signal Gutting of Democracy. Food Prices Skyrocket As People Go Hungry Thanks To The Marxist Socialist That Destroyed Economy. Inflation To Rise 475% This Year.

THIS IS WHAT AMERICANS WILL GET IF THEY VOTE FOR 4 MORE YEARS OF MARXISM  with Hillary Clinton AFTER 8 YEARS OF Obama's Marxist failed economic policies. And don't tell me Venezuela is an exception. NAME ONE SUCCESSFUL Marxist Socialist Nation ON THIS PLANET throughout history. ANSWER: THERE IS NONE.

Venezuelans voted for Maduro simply because he supported the same damn failed policies his Marxist Socialist predecessor believed in. They didn't give a damn that the only real experience Maduro has ever had was driving a fricken bus and leading a labor union protest against his employer. Yeah, that makes sense. Let's vote for more of the same crap sandwich please. Because it tastes so damn good. NOT. :/ Now the Venezuelan people are living in hell and people, mainly Chavistas, still have THE NERVE to defend the Marxist Socialist inept government and blame the US for Venezuela's nightmare. Yeah. Okay. Whatever.

The Wall Street Journal, USA
written by Anatoly Kurmanaev
Friday October 21, 2016

CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuela’s government has steadily become more authoritarian in recent years, but many citizens feel it cast off the last vestiges of democracy Thursday night, when electoral authorities extinguished the opposition’s efforts to recall President Nicolás Maduro by referendum.

The action came days after the government postponed December elections for governors that it would have badly lost and stripped the legislature of one of last powers it had left: its constitutional right to pass a federal budget.

Taken together, the moves signal the end of any hope that Mr. Maduro could be removed from power through referendum, as provided for under the constitution, or even have his executive power checked. And they fuel growing doubt about whether Mr. Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela will hold presidential elections scheduled for 2018.

Public figures and intellectuals here have this week decried an official end to democracy in a country with one of Latin America’s longest and strongest democratic traditions.

“Democracy doesn’t exist without the separation of powers, without elections and without votes,” Alberto Barrera, a noted author here, said in an online column this week. “That has another name.”

The government followed the referendum’s suspension by issuing travel bans for 11 opposition leaders, including former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and Jesús Torrealba, the general secretary of the opposition alliance. The move was likely aimed at preventing the opposition from drumming up international support for their cause, one of the few avenues of action left to them.

Political scientists have long debated how best to characterize a country that still held elections but whose leaders exerted political control by co-opting formal democratic institutions like courts. That subtle discussion now seems to have been rendered moot.

“Venezuela just took the ‘competitive’ out of ‘competitive authoritarianism,’” John Polga, professor of Latin American studies at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland, said in a message on Twitter.

“Elections are the sine qua non of democracy—the bare minimal requirement—so pushing back regional elections until next year and now suspending and possibly canceling altogether the recall referendum is tantamount to a declaration that the government no longer wishes to even keep up the appearance of being an electoral democracy,” Mr. Polga said.

Some opposition parties on Friday called people onto the streets to defend their voting rights. A few hundred university students staged protests outside campuses across the country Friday morning, but most of the country remained calm, awaiting an announcement expected later today from the official opposition alliance.

The opposition has struggled to attract more than a few thousand to several antigovernment protests staged in the past month, with many people saying they are tired of going to rallies that haven’t produced a visible result. Others express fear of being thrown into jail, as dozens of demonstrators have been.

For all its authoritarian tendencies, the Venezuela’s Socialist government has staged one election and referendum after another over much of its 18 years in power. Its leaders, often decked out in bright red, called their government “a beautiful revolution” and boasted they had the world’s most democratic government.

For years, especially during the first few years after Socialist Hugo Chávez’s first became president in 1999, leftists from Buenos Aires to Madrid saw a new utopia rising in South America to counter Washington’s imperialist hegemony. It was Venezuela’s opposition, which carried out a brief-lived coup against Mr. Chávez in 2002, that was widely seen as antidemocratic.

But any democratic credentials the government had were soon tarnished as Mr. Chávez took control of once-independent institutions, from the election agency to the courts. He muzzled the independent media by stripping critical TV stations of their broadcast licenses and withheld newsprint from independent newspapers.

Conditions further deteriorated quickly under the rule of his successor, Mr. Maduro, who trained in Communist Cuba and later became a bus driver. Upon Mr. Chávez’s death in 2013 Mr. Maduro became the leader of this country of 30 million people and oversaw the world’s worst economic meltdown.

“The latest moves by the government have made it more evident that Venezuela is no longer a democracy,” said Diego Moya-Ocampos, political-risk analyst at consulting firm IHS Inc. in London.

written by Patrick Gillespie and Osmary Hernandez
Friday October 21, 2016

Earlier this year, Venezuelans suffered through acute food shortages.

Now food is starting to reappear on more and more supermarket shelves. But the prices are prohibitive for almost everyone.

"The prices are really really high...people are just shocked by the price increases," says Alejandro, a 24-year old who works at a law firm in Maracaibo, Venezuela, near the border of Colombia.

It's the latest reality in a country where people are going hungry: food within eyesight but out of reach.

To ease the shortages, Venezuela's government has quietly stopped enforcing some of its price controls on food in parts of Venezuela that border Colombia and Brazil where food is shipped in.

It wasn't feasible for many Venezuelan businesses to bring in basic goods from other countries. That's because no matter what price they paid, they were forced to sell at super low prices dictated for years by the socialist government.

But now food importers can bring in basics like eggs, milk and flour -- things that have been previously scarce on shelves -- and sell them without price controls. It's the reason supermarkets have more food now than in previous months.

However, the difference between Venezuela's price controls and market prices is significant. Venezuelans say they've seen staggering price hikes as the country struggles with exponentially rising inflation. The IMF forecasts inflation in Venezuela to rise 475% this year.

For example, Venezuela's most popular dish is the arepa. Call it the hot dog of Venezuela. It's made with cornmeal. The government's price for cornmeal was 190 bolivars -- or about 16 cents -- for a two pound bag.

In supermarkets today though, cornmeal made in Venezuela is selling for 975 bolivars, and imported cornmeal goes for 1,850 bolivars.

And even that sometimes isn't always available, Venezuelans say. That's when the black market kicks in, where unofficial food vendors sell the bag of cornmeal for as much as 3,500 bolivars -- or $3.

"The price of everything skyrocketed," says Simon, a 25-year old recent college graduate who teaches high school students in Caracas, the country's capital. "There's no quality of life here."

Simon makes roughly 96,000 bolivars a month on the ever-rising exchange rate. That's equal to about $80.

He hasn't had meat in his fridge in a month.

"Not because we can't find meat, but because it's very expensive," says Simon. He lives with his mother, Carmen, in an upper middle class neighborhood.

The price for a dozen eggs in some supermarkets in Caracas is now 1,800 bolivars ($1.50). A year ago it was 500 bolivars ($0.40).

The government's price on a liter of milk is about 350 bolivars, but it's being sold now for 970 bolivars in some stores.

The shortages have even hit middle class Venezuelans hard. Simon and Carmen went without toilet paper for a month in July, and during various times this year they've been without milk, eggs and cheese. Last month, Carmen flew to New York to visit her daughter and took back basics, like toilet paper, to Caracas.

Simon and Alejandro, who don't know each other, stress they are the lucky Venezuelans who can get by despite being without some basics.

For the poorest Venezuelans, the current minimum wage, including the equivalent of food stamps, is 65,000 bolivars a month (roughly $54). That means one bag of cornmeal and a dozen eggs could take up as much as 8% of a worker's monthly pay.

What's unclear to many Venezuelans is whether the government will continue to turn a blind eye and not enforce its price controls -- or if it will start reenforcing the controls because people are complaining about sky high prices. That uncertainty frustrates many Venezuelans.

At this point there are no good options for the government or its people.

"What's worse -- for there to be empty shelves, or stocked shelves with prices that are exorbitantly high?" says Daniel Osorio, who spends a week every month in Caracas and leads the investing firm Andean Capital Management. "When it was at the old price, there was nothing available."

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