When cement becomes a privilege

Bags of cement: An item reserved for well-connected or lucky
Now reserved for the well-connected

A friend of the family who works in construction tells me about the ordeal he has to go through lately to get a few bags of cement.

“Sometimes, I get a phone call from an associate who tells me to go to Quibor (a town 45 minutes west of Barquisimeto). But by the time I finally get there, all the bags were sold out.”

As a result, some of the projects he’s involved have been delayed for weeks. He’s not alone.

Cement and other construction items are pretty scarce in the domestic market and for those who find them have to pay way more than the regulated price. But now, the lack of those items are now used as a mechanism of political punishment.

Ayacucho Municipality (in Táchira State) has seen 65 of its projects brought to a halt because they can’t source cement. But that’s not the worst part: the local Mayor, Miguel Chacón, is from the opposition. He says that the National Guard is pressuring businesses to refuse to sell them cement as a form of political retaliation.

Next door, the town of Michelena faces the same predicament and its mayor Fernando Andrade (who’s also from the opposition) said that the municipality must travel out of the state to get cement. Beside those cases, cement has become a valuable commodity for smugglers here at home and across the border with Colombia.

Industries Minister Ricardo Menéndez said that last year’s domestic production of cement broke all records. But demand from the G.M.V.V. public housing program overwhelmed such rise, and the government had to strike new deals with four countries (one of them Colombia) to buy cement and other materials so it could keep its work on schedule.

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  1. I have a buddy that builds pools. They use white cement, which is an extermely rare commodity. According to him, he can easily get guns, ammunition, cocaine, marihuana, but white cement, forget it. Hecho en socialismo!
    BTW he had been building tons of new pools to the Boli-bourgeois, his clients being a catalog of the folks that have benefited from the government in the last several years.

  2. Pura paja de Menéndez,este es el único país donde el productor (expropieador) se queja del consumidor por comprar tanto. Yo trabajé en obra en Caracas 2009 – 2011 antes de la GMVV y tampoco se conseguía nada. En mi obra pusimos una planta dosificadora de concreto en el terreno, que siempre tuvo los silos vacios, jamás la usamos. Todo el concreto se conseguía era pre-mezclado con otras compañías q lo vendían carísimo, Para comprar sacos de cemento blanco no los conseguía un ferretero a 75Bs el saco (precio regulado era 14). Las cabillas se conseguían siempre de fuentes distintas negociando el precio del Kg de acero a casi el doble del precio regulado y comprando atados del diámetro q fuera, era muy difícil conseguir cualquier cosa mayor a 7/8″ o perfiles de acero mayores a 120mm (que en estructuras no sirve ni pa un rancho). La única empresa que conocí que estaba haciendo estructuras de acero, conseguían los perfiles importados de Brasil, a través de SIDOR a precio subsidiado, pero pagando por “la diligencia”, y después preguntan que por qué esa vaina está quebrada…

    Probablemente ahorita está peor porque creció la demanda y no sé qué tanto habrá aumentado la eficiancia revolucionaria de las empresas del estado.

  3. yes I do it all the time , I go where the goverment construction is and go to the redest of the red shirts and pay him cash money and pick it up in the night , they dont care who they steal from as long as they are stealing , they are all the same , they’d even sell thier own mother

    • Same thing happens with Mercal pollos, sold by the case to restaurants and those with multiple workers/farmhands on their payrolls–blibourgeois revolutionaries at work.

  4. This is obviously the product of the many houses that the government is building for Venezuela’s people, combined with the reduced poverty that makes them more able to afford housing.

    I bleed red!


      • I suspect the IPs will be the same. It’s Cort’s Siamese twin. But really, the adman is getting creative — the best of Madison Avenue.

    • I was going to preempt the usual idiocy by stating that it: It is all a result of a increased cement consumption, so many many many houses are being built by a people now awash in cash, and many many many more are built by the Bolivarian Government, we are sooooo happy…

    • Cement and rebar are the sinews of the Bolivarian revolution and must reserved for the leadership of the state.

      (hows that?)

      Or, right-deviationist wreckers have sabotaged the cement output and will be dealt with directly

      (an old favorite)

    • I think it’s sarcasm, although my sarcasm detector may be off. With the level of craziness as of late he may very well be Cort’s half-brother.

    • Exactly, cement consumption is through the roof, there’s no way the government would have been able to account for such an eventuality over a short fourteen years (Short because there was only four leap years during Chavez’s tenure, and he was out of power for two days during the coup). The government is building so many houses now and domestic concrete production has yet to pick up, there hasn’t been time to build infrastructure for it. But the shortages themselves are a sign of success!!

      I also bleed red (I just checked to make sure).

  5. Well, first, I’d guess that domestic production is down, like almost everything else in Venezuela that has been nationalized.

    Meanwhile, the chavernment has decreed a vast program of housing construction (and probably a lot of other public works as well). These operations are authorized to buy as much cement as they want at a regulated, artificially low price.

    But do they actually have to use the cement? Not really. Some gets used, some gets stolen and sold on the black market, and some gets wasted. With the artificially low price and unlimited government funds, cement is cheap for them, and if a few hundred bags get left out the rain and destroyed, so what? Or if a batch is mixed wrong and must be discarded, so what? Just order some more.

    That is why there is an acute shortage.

  6. But demand from the G.M.V.V. public housing program overwhelmed such rise (in domestic production of cement ) …

    Imagine if the chavernment had actually built the number of houses that it planned / said it did, or even used the proper amounts of cement to build their house-of-cards abodes.


    • The last line is right on spot , there is a crass failure on the part of the regime in planning the prosecution of its mass building projects , in planning for future demand for cement and other construction materials needed to execute it in a rational way !! same with electricity demand , same for food demand , same for all kind of demands leading to a breakdown in all kind of industries , including all the CVG industries in Guayana which are now at a almost total productive standstil. Add to that the failure to rationally and realistically plan for the maintenance and growth of Pdvsa’s activities and that of roads or other public utilities l For the regime to plan means to fantasize , to dream , something colossal and grand to be achieved through magical revolutionary inspiration and which will make the supreme leader look good , look majestic and all powerful !! what a farce !!.

  7. Gustavo, just wanted to say I really love your highly sourced posts. They are a fascinating insight into chavista management to be sure.

    Part of me feels that this is part of the whole centralized command economy. You can’t have people independently acting within the confines of the market because if they do, then they can one up you and achieve results without you. So you make them dependent upon the more exclusive, central, command structures. But I don’t know if that’s true, it just feels that way on first inspection.


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