Imagine having all the things you consider as a given taken away from you. Imagine your Western life-style suffered a severe change and you go from walking safely on the streets to praying not to get killed in front of your home. Now imagine how hard it would be for you to cope with this situation and adapt your way of thinking, all the while living in a great city that has shown such promise and that you never thought you’d have to flee. This is how people of Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, are feeling. And what is maybe more difficult to understand and accept is how different everything is from how they would have imagined it for 2017.
How Life in Caracas Has Changed in 2017
In 2017, life in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, is a real nightmare. Many of the inhabitants feel like they are unwilling actors in a film set in a post-apocalyptic future, only that their surroundings have remained the same. At least this is how they appear.
City life and urban culture… only in their memories
The impressive city skyline is a reminder of what was built in Venezuela with the money from the oil industry. This money was also used to fund the social programs of Chavez. Unfortunately, the oil money has run out and the current president does not seem to do such a great job inspiring the people. This has left a once flourishing city in the grip of despair and army control – to a certain extent.
So what happened… in a nutshell?
When Venezuela switched to a centralized economy in 2003 and started to control and dictate prices, so that every family, rich or poor, could afford to buy the same food basket, they did a good thing through a social policy financed with oil money. Unfortunately, as things in an economy are tied together, it backfired, and it backfired badly.
Food price control was not the only social policy funded with oil money. We are talking abouta large number of social programs that overall helped people get out of poverty and live a good life in Venezuela. Unfortunately, the social programs expenses were higher than the money coming in from the oil export. In order to make payments, the Government proceeded to print more money, leading to an increase in inflation. The 2014 oil price drop has hit the country hard and has set off a snowball effect that resulted in shortages of food and 82% of the people living in poverty and having lost about 19 pounds in weight, according to an internal study.
There is no production left
In an attempt to keep things under control, the Government unleashed a bureaucratic monster on its industry and industry representatives. This means that all business representatives now produce less than a quarter of what they used to, all the while having to fill out paperwork and various reports. The production and distribution chains have been broken, the Government intervening in these two. Since there is so much bureaucracy and things can change from one week to another, businessmen are cutting their losses and fleeing the country. There have been cases of food rotting in deposit houses because there was no one to distribute it.
Strict government control to avoid corruption, selling goods on the black market and waste is inefficient and wasteful itself
In a desperate attempt to make sure that nobody has more than they can consume, the state checks and triple checks everything. People spend their days queuing for everything. This is inefficient, it keeps people from working and it still does not ensure them that they will have food and toiletries in their homes.
A severe climate of violence
The food shortages, the queues for everything and the constant babble and ability of the Government to improve the situation in any way would be easier to cope with in a climate of peace. Unfortunately, Venezuela in 2017 is among the most dangerous countries in the world, if not the most dangerous. There is no war being waged here, but violent protests, looting of stores and transport trucks, gangs and drive-by shootings are the norm now. If at the beginning of the year it was still relatively safe to walk across the street, now you could get shot if certain people consider that you have anything of value on you.
In 2017, you can get killed in Caracas only for a phone. The police are practically non-existent and there is nothing to be done to find the assailants. There is a climate of crime and constant threat. Doctors cannot do much for the victims in the hospitals that lack even the basic supplies. The military are on the streets to try and maintain a sense of order. In reality, they do not even interfere in many of the cases, for fear of getting lynched themselves.
The deepening of the political crisis
Image source: https://pixabay.com/p-90629/?no_redirect
Image description: Venezuelan people at a gathering
The situation in Venezuela is nothing new. In fact, some international organizations even tried to help out. Unfortunately, the Government refused their involvement and turned down shipments of food and medicine. Also, their attempts to override democratic concepts of ruling such as the separation of power and a constant claim that the current situation is a boycott of the business class, unsatisfied with the results of the elections, only deepen the political crisis.
Things are so bad in Venezuela that politicians and dignitaries traveling across the borders are now being publicly shamed for affording to dine out in other cities in the world, while they keep an entire nation in poverty and hunger. This has happened all over the world, in Miami, New York, Germany, Australia and Bern. Wherever Venezuelan officials or businessmen with ties to the Maduro Government are identified, people are letting them have it. In response, their correspondents back home go on TV and misinform the people and claim that the harassment comes from rich people who only wish to destabilize the country.
The Venezuelans are living a nightmare. The constant danger, the lack of food, the lack of security of any kind is distressing. Many of them still cannot believe how they got to this point and how come this is the reality they are living in 2017.