Perspectives

What is behind the Venezuela Crisis?

By David Muhammad -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: May 11, 2017 - 1:51:16 PM

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In Venezuela, there is a food crisis unlike any other country in the entire hemisphere.

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Citizens are resorting to eating wild fruit or even garbage, waiting in lines for hours and sometimes remaining hungry for 24 or 48 hours at a time.

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Gang violence has also increased and sometimes there are raids, lootings and riots for food.

There have also been reports of Venezuelans trading arms and ammunition for food supplies from Trinidad which is just seven miles away.

But let us see if we can understand how this began: In 2003, the government created a currency control board to handle foreign exchange and place currency limits on individuals. Such currency controls have been determined to be the cause of shortages, according to many economists and other experts. The control board resulted in a black market currency exchange that threatened further destabilization with the rich and wealthy hoarding money.

As a result of expropriations of private means of production from 2004, local production was seriously limited and a wave of consumption based on imports occurred when Venezuela had abundant oil money.

An increase in shortages began to occur in 2005, with five percent of items being unavailable, according to the Venezuelan Central Bank.

In January 2008, 24.7 percent of goods were reported to not be available in Venezuela.

Shortage rates steadily continued to increase, and reached a new record high of 28 percent in February 2014. At the end of 2015, it was estimated that there was a shortage of over 75 percent of goods in Venezuela.

One of the worst visible cases of the food and hunger crisis was seen in July 2015, when starving Venezuelans desperate for food went right up to the Colombian border with over 500 women storming past Venezuelan National Guard troops into Colombia for food on July 6, 2015. This became so bad that on July 10, 2015, Venezuela temporarily opened its borders for 12 hours, with over 35,000 Venezuelans traveling to Colombia for food within the period. Between July 16-17, over 123,000 Venezuelans crossed into Colombia seeking food with the Colombian government setting up what it called a “humanitarian corridor” to welcome Venezuelans. The border has been closed since August 2015 and the situation got worse in 2016. By February 2017, the Venezuela’s Living Conditions Survey reported that about 75 percent of Venezuelans had lost weight dropping about 19 pounds. The survey had also stated that 82.8 percent of Venezuelans were living in poverty, 93 percent could no longer afford food and one million Venezuelan school children do not attend classes “due to hunger and a lack of public services.”

The government also rationed public water and electricity and there were increased cases of diseases such as malaria, cholera and diarrhea. The Venezuelan military was placed in control of food and supplies distribution and made changes to allow imported goods to be cleared at the ports. Friends and family members of army personnel have been priority listed to receive rations. The Venezuelan government claims that as much as 40 percent of the basic commodities it subsidizes for the domestic market are being smuggled out of the country, into neighboring countries like Colombia, where they are sold at much higher prices. One army lieutenant, Luis Alberto Silva of the Bolivarian National Guard, was arrested for possessing three tons of flour.

According to Western reports, it was under the government of Nicolas Maduro that these food shortages occurred due to the Venezuelan government’s policy of withholding United States dollars from importers with price controls. But the Venezuelan government blamed other entities for shortages, such as the CIA and the smugglers, and has stated that an “economic war” has been declared on Venezuela. We cannot underestimate the impact of outside interference in the politics of Venezuela. In “The Time & What Must Be Done” Part 14, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan pointed out to us that the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez wondered whether he was poisoned by the CIA and that the Venezuelan opposition were being urged not to accept election results in favor of a Nicolas Maduro victory. With Venezuela’s reliance on imports and its lack of having dollars to pay for such imports, shortages resulted. Mega business cartels also played their part in manipulating the economy through hoarding of goods and currency.

Without settling the outstanding debt, Venezuela could also not import materials necessary for domestic production. Without such imports, more shortages could be created since there would be a larger lack of production as well. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said study carefully the events taking place in neighboring countries for soon they may be on your own doorstep.

David Muhammad is the Trinidad and Eastern Caribbean Representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Read more from him at www.blackagendaproject.com.

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