Shortage of excuses

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It is rather irresponsible to make harsh statements without hard data to sustain them (thank you, Central Bank!), but we are going to go out on a limb and say that Venezuelans face multiple shortages on a daily basis. Now, we know that shortages (and rationing) are a side product of Venezuela’s failed Socialismo del Siglo XXI model. But the Central Government has other theories, each one more outlandish than the next.

On the one hand, President Maduro claims that 95.6% of Venezuelans eat three times a day, and we are muy robustos because we are eating too many carbs and fat. So, according to Maduro, we should simply consume lessbajarle dos, bajarle cuatro– to lower scarcity levels.

On the other hand, the Central Government claims that 40% of Venezuela’s food imports are sold by “smuggling mafias” in Colombia. The Central Government also claims that Venezuela imports between 45% and 55% of the food it consumes, while the private sector says the number ranges from 70% to 80%. In simpler words: we import most of our food and the Central Government says that we lose almost half to smugglers.

Due to fixed prices, we know the black markets are but a natural consequence. And as long as the price differential between formal markets and black market is maintained, there will always be incentives to continue the informal sale of basic products. Even the military and public officials are involved in smuggling. To reduce shortages (and inflation), it is essential to foster domestic production and, in the short and medium run, increase the efficiency of imports.

If we can’t walk because of a fractured knee, it would be rather silly to take a couple of acetaminophen to try and run a marathon (assuming that you could find acetaminophen in Venezuela, even though the Central Government promises to distribute 428,000 tablets for us close to 30 million Venezuelans).

So, when an economic model fails and produces shortages, it’s even sillier to think that eating less, the use of a biometric system to ration consumption or a so called #PlanContraElContrabando (a plan against smuggling) will solve anything. These measures are like prescribing acetaminophen to cure Venezuela’s fractured knee.

We are not sure if we can actually talk about a “plan” against smuggling. The Vice-presidency twitted this map that supposedly details “the three strategic lines” of the plan and… well… uhhhh… we’re not sure what to say about it.

The map left us a bit cold. Is the Brazilian border really not being watched? What about the Guyana border? And … were the borders really colored over with a crayon?

Some day, the government will run out of excuses for their own mismanagement … right?

1 COMMENT

  1. So this is what the guys at the Comando Estrategico Operacional of the FANB do in their spare time? Trace maps? Maybe there’s no line on the Brazil & Guyana borders because there’s a shortage of Red pencils- they’re probably being smuggled out…

  2. I’m very sorry, but I truly despise this both Chavista and opposition’s* compulsion for defacing all maps they can in order to “reclaim” that area from Guayana… Isn’t it childish to do that? It’s as if we in Brazil started drawing our maps by putting Uruguay as Brazilian territory (it was until 1828). Hopefully, most Venezuelans are not into that, because a war is probably the thing that Venezuelans need less right now.
    And in the case of that area really being Venezuelan territory, then redraw the maps AFTER that area is returned to Venezuela, not before.

    *:
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-wEDuhIPryEE/UoDWHlweJvI/AAAAAAAASsU/eLzgsZD4k78/s1600/BYwmtbmIIAA9-_1.jpg

  3. they have run out of excuses a long time ago, at least credible ones: I cannot imagine even a half decent government remaining in power after blaming an “economic war” for inflation, “terrorism” as the cause for rampant violence, now a “bacteriological war” as the cause for the sorry state of the health sector… the problem, of course, lies with the people that eat up this horse crap just because the government tells them that it’s Nutella.

  4. Anabella, Bárbara

    Your article is good but for one word: it’s not “even” the military but particularly the military.

    The German public station ARD showed a video of how Bruno, a Swiss military who became mired in obscure businesses while working to train Venezuelan military for decades, currently smuggles petrol along the El Dorado-Guyana border. There are several German-speaking blogs talking about that Bruno.
    He is just one of many. The smuggling with Brazil is mostly organised by the “milicos”.

  5. One detail, inflation has nothing to do with shortages! So, please, refrain from making that claim any more. If I’m not mistaken, this isn’t the first time you make it.

  6. That blue oval is clearly well thought of. I mean, it comes out of a very robust study of geography, production and consumption patterns in Venezuela. Furthermore, the government is so capable of ‘fiscalizar’ very well that inter-state delineated area.

  7. On the difference between Opposition and Government claims on food importation percentages, it is possible that the Government is speaking in TONNAGE, whereas the the Opposition is speaking in terms of VALUE. Neither party has been very clear in their presentation of the statistics. But it would make sense for the tonnage figures to be lower than the value figures, as the stuff that is locally produced tends to be the fruits and vegetables, which weigh more than most processed imports. These are figures that are easy to fudge one way or the other, by selecting how they are calculated.

    But, regardless of the exact numbers, any country that professes to care as much about its sovereignty as Venezuela claims to, should be ashamed and appalled at being dependent on imports for more than half of its food. Do they not understand how strategically vulnerable this makes Venezuela? A simple quarantine would bring Venezuela to its knees in a month!

  8. I don’t want to be the party pooper here but, if you look at Cuba and Zimbabwe you would notice that excuses are pretty much limitless or so is our capacity to forget the old ones.

  9. Why is the Venezuelan border with Brazil not heavily defended, in the map issued by ViceVenezuela to reflect “Operación Choque al Contrabando”?

    The likely answer comes via a conversation I just had with a Colombiano-Venezolano businessman whose brother has long formed part of a French-woman led ONG, supplying medications to indigenous and poverty-stricken populations of the Amazon regions.

    Through this connection, I learned that north of Manaus, in Venezuelan territory, the FARC and ELN together cultivate and control THOUSANDS of HECTARES of coke and marijuana fields. The harvest from these fields are marketed as coming out of Colombia.

    That’s why there’s no official blockage to the contraband along the border with Brazil.

    (Btw, members of the ONG are strictly forbidden to discuss or photograph these fields.)

    • It’s no surprise for anyone. Every time you hear the terms “indigenous reservations” and “Europeans NGOs” together with “Amazon”, be certain that it’s just a veneer to cover drug trafficking and guerillas in those areas. Brazil and Venezuela are huge FARC and ELN enthusiasts.

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