1/28/2016

Venezuela Food Lines

The food shortage in Venezuela is caused by government policies which destroyed the country's ability to grow food, and earn hard currency to import the shortfall. The government propaganda blames "the economic war", supposedly waged by merchants, the US government, and the "Dollar Today" webpage which posts the unmentionable Bolivar/dollar exchange rate (today's rate is 947 Bolivars per US dollar, versus the  8 to 9 bolivars per dollar we had six years ago). 

The government's authoritarian, inflexible and ineffective nature derives from its Castroite/Stalinist belief in "authoritarian thought married to the proposal of social transformation.”  Transformation in this case means creating hell on earth for Venezuelans.

There are many articles about the Venezuelan economic crisis and shortages, lots of disagreements over the causes and solutions, but nobody seems to write much about the food lines, and how people get mugged while shopping. So I'll write about the subject based on my own experience and what I hear from others.

To have a reasonable chance of getting the goodies (rationed or price controlled basic foods) it's important to get in line very early. 

There are two basic approaches, the first involves getting up very early, say at 4 in the morning, and standing outside the store as soon as possible. The other involves keeping a sharp eye,  or lots of friends who call to tell you what food arrived at a previously empty shop. The second approach doesn't work very well unless one has very well informed friends or runs extremely fast. It's useful to chase after anybody you see running down the street, because there's a good chance that person is running to get in line at a shop receiving goodies. 

Standing in line in Venezuela can be quite uncomfortable. The main practical problem is worrying about whether you will keep your place in line when you have to go to the bathroom. This is compounded by the inability to find a suitable place where it's safe to take your pants down and avoid getting mugged. 


Talking about getting mugged, it's not unusual to have muggers rob people in line. In some cases the sons of bitches follow people and rob them AFTER they shopped. 

When I lived in Caracas I used every trick and maneuver I could think of to avoid getting robbed. For example, I carried two wallets, one cheap watch, and two phones. The idea was to give a wallet with expired credit cards, fake documents, and some cash plus phone and watch to robbers. 

Other survival measures involved tricks such as never holding to a routine, never walking at the same pace, and dressing down (so so hair cut and dirty shoes are a must). 

I had two additional weapons which helped me navigate through the city: I can speak with a wonderful Cuban accent, plus my driver/bodyguard was extremely well trained, and very large. We made a wonderful pair,  on one occasion we were walking down Bolivar Avenue (that's downtown) and we ran into Freddie Bernal, the then Chavista mayor of Libertador District. Believe it or not, between my buddy's Chavista bullshit and my Cuban accent, we talked Freddie into ordering HIS bodyguards into stopping traffic so we could cross a six lane artery. 


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