Frances Goldin of Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA may want to take some notes. This is what turning a working country into a Socialist country leads to.
After his annual address to parliament last month, Maduro declared 2014 “the year of the ultimate triumph in the economic war,” announced a new team of economic managers and decreed a law capping business profits at 30 percent.
“You can be sure we will be inspecting everyone, sooner or later,” Maduro warned, part of the “New Economic Order” he vows to create.
Sounds great. How is the ultimate triumph in economic war going so far?
Soon word spread that the long-awaited rolls had arrived, and despite a government-imposed limit of one package per person, the checkout lines stretched all the way to the decimated dairy case in the back of the store.
“This is so depressing,” said Maria Plaza, 30, a lawyer, an hour and a half into her wait. “Pathetic.”
Pathetic, in a country with the world’s largest petroleum reserves and oil prices at nearly $95 a barrel, yet unable to supply basic goods because of its crumbling local currency and a shortage of U.S. dollars.
“Soon we’ll be using newspaper, just like they do in Cuba!” said an elderly man nearby, inching forward in line. “Yeah! Like Cuba!” others shouted.
The fate of Venezuela’s revolution, it seems, will be decided at the supermarket.
Most Venezuelans are too busy just trying to secure the basics. Residents from the country’s interior say the shortages are even worse outside the capital.
“There’s nothing to buy where we live,” said Maria Valencia, a preschool teacher from the oil-producing hub of Maracaibo, near Venezuela’s western border, while shopping at a government-run Bicentenario supermarket where products sold by recently nationalized companies carried little heart symbols and the phrase “Made in Socialism.”
Valencia and three family members had filled their cart with corn oil, four bottles each, the maximum. “This stuff is gold,” she said.
This is what Made in Socialism looks like. But at least Venezuela is safer under left-wing tyranny.
Fear is so widespread that shopping mall kiosks offer “Express Armoring” for motorists who want their vehicles bulletproofed, fast.
Despite calls for an overhaul of Venezuela’s woeful police forces, Maduro said violent soap operas were to blame and warned broadcasters to clean up their content.
Yes, it’s the soap operas. Once the last independent broadcaster is shut down, then Venezuela will be safer because crime won’t be reported.
Venezuela’s real problem, economists say, is that a shortage of U.S. dollars is squeezing the ability of the government and the private sector to import. Even in upscale Caracas shopping malls, international chain stores such as Zara and Gucci are gutted, their employees standing around with nothing to sell and the mannequins left naked.
While the government has fixed the exchange rate of the country’s currency, the “strong bolivar,” at 6.3 to the dollar, the widely used street rate is more than 10 times higher. Inflation was 56 percent last year — officially — and in an oil-warped economy that depends heavily on imported goods, businesses can’t get the dollars they need to restock their shelves. Even Venezuelan-made items go scarce as factories struggle to obtain replacement parts and raw materials.
But Venezuela’s insane dictator Maduro, who claims that a little bird in the form of Chavez visited him, does have a solution.
Maduro’s government also plans to grease the wheels by selling at least $5 billion in U.S. money — at nearly twice the official rate — to companies trying to shed bolivars and secure hard currency.
Crony Socialism. It’s not just for Obama.