Tortuous lines have been commonplace for a year or so, following the collapse in oil prices that helped trigger Venezuela’s economic free-fall.Here is another report in which the current socialist rat takes all the same actions that Obama does, The same packing of the courts with ideologues, creating ing extra-legal laws, and supporting protesters with government funds. Obama bankrupted Illinois, and Illinois will be like Detroit and Caracus soon.
But there is widespread consensus among scores interviewed that the lines are getting longer and that essential products more scarce, further testing Venezuelans’ collective patience.
“We need a change. We can’t go on like this,” said Andres Salazar, 58, a construction worker who had been in line since 5 a.m. outside a supermarket, and still hadn’t made it inside more than seven hours later.
“How long can we take this?” asked a glum Salazar, who used his day off to purchase some basic goods.
The shortages have eroded support for the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro, whose party lost control of the national legislature in December elections.
Lines are not a problem at gas stations, where motorists fill their tanks with subsidized fuel for the equivalent of less than 1 U.S. dollar, among the cheapest prices in the world, despite recent hikes.
The poor and working classes, backbone of support for the late President Hugo Chavez, are suffering most. Well-off Venezuelans with access to U.S. dollars can afford free-market prices charged by unregulated small shops or rampant black-marketers known as bachaqueros.
But with the minimum wage at the equivalent of about $30 a month, most residents have no choice but to brave the lines in the hope of purchasing foodstuffs and other essentials at government-controlled prices.
National guardsmen, rifles slung on their shoulders, and police are often deployed to prevent violence or incidents of line-jumping. Authorities limit purchases of basic items — nearly 4.5 pounds of pasta or rice per customer for instance — in a bid to restrict hoarding.
People are assigned certain days to shop based on the numbers on their government-issued IDs.
Rampant corruption in the scattered distribution network means price-controlled items are rerouted to the black market or purchased by bachaqueros, who resell them at marked-up prices.
Since Maduro was elected by the narrowest of margins to succeed Hugo Chávez three years ago, Venezuela’s sputtering and debt-ridden economy has been in steep decline. Plunging oil prices and production compounded the government’s woes. The regime’s international credibility has been devastated by authoritative reports in U.S. and European dailies implicating then National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello and other regime leaders in drug trafficking and money laundering. Last November, the arrest of Maduro’s stepson on cocaine smuggling charges in the United States scandalized Venezuelans. That December, Maduro’s destructive economic policies, political repression, and insecurity touched off a political avalanche, garnering the opposition two-thirds of the seats in national legislative elections.
Maduro’s response was to pack the supreme court with cronies who nullified every act of the assembly—including an amnesty of political prisoners. Electoral authorities are doing Maduro’s bidding by stalling a “revocatory referendum” that, if held this year, would allow voters to oust the president and elect a replacement.
Were it not for the dramatic humanitarian crisis, Maduro might be able to escape responsibility for this power grab. However, the imminent economic collapse and fear of widespread political violence has led the region’s chief diplomat, Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, to call an urgent meeting to press regional governments to respond to the crisis.