“How much longer do we have to tolerate this?”

“What must happen for the government to do something?”

¿HASTA CUÁNDO?

These are questions that every Venezuelan hears frequently. Just in the last couple of weeks I heard it from my parents, my fiancé, the caretaker of my building, a couple of construction workers, and my doctor. I also read it in every single one of my WA chat groups, as well as in a some tweets and FB statuses.

At this point, it’s safe to say that the “we are a rich country” myth is busted. Reality has bit us in the face, and we have awakened to the new normal: what an extremely poor country we really are. The vast majority of Venezuelans are broke, and that explains why they are also spiritually broken.

According to the Encuesta de Condiciones de Vida UCAB-UCV-USB for 2015, 87% of respondents believe that their income was insufficient to purchase food. Mind you, this is just food – other basic goods and services, like clothing, shoes, transportation, etc., are less essential.

Now, we can quibble with how income measures should or should not be used to measure poverty. There is a long debate in the literature about the search for alternative measures of poverty. But whichever measure you use, I think it’s safe to say that if you can’t scrounge up a few bolos to buy three meals a day for yourself and your kin … you’re poor.

Even if Venezuelans made enough money to buy groceries, there is absolutely no guarantee that they would get what they want or even what they need. Many have been recurring to domestic hoarding, but as time passes and inflation and scarcity rise, the stocks are decreasing fast.

Many Venezuelans got their first credit card to use Cadivi and used those preferential cheap dollars to cover expenses and even save up. Now, those dollars are being slowly sold to cover everyday expenses and credit cards are needed to pay for everyday necessities. “Venezuela está endeudada hasta las metras” seems to be taking a whole new meaning – not only are we indebted, but our savings are quickly decreasing.

Here is another sign of poverty: standing in line. Las colas have become the rule and not the exception.

According to Datanálisis, in 2008 an average Venezuelan purchased essential goods every 10 days; but in February 2016, purchases were made every 3 days. Venezuelans had to visit at least 4 local and las colas averaged 5 hours -though some do up to 11 hours of cola to buy luxury goods, such as price-controlled meat.

If you had the time and patience to ruletear por Caracas and do a couple of colas, you have to fight –in some cases, literally– to get price-controlled products, the only ones a large majority can afford. Some people even give birth while in line to get food.

As for bachaqueros, it is a love-hate relationship.

Venezuelans look down on informal black-market vendors and many would add an insult or two, if not for fear of being attacked by them or their “group of friends.” Even so, most Venezuelans now have at least one bachaquero in their contacts list… and the WA-market has become an easy solution for those who have the means but not the time to fight for food in supermarkets. I think it might be an exaggeration, but still: in July 2015, Datanálisis reported that 70% of people who did colas were bachaqueros.

The medicine situation seems even more critical with every passing second, and by April medicine scarcity had reached a scary 85%: the colas at drugstores are huge, the regular answer from the pharmacist tends to be “no hay,”  and social media has become the way to get the much needed medicines.

Rich people don’t stand in line. Think about that next time you’re frying under the tropical sun, waiting to buy price-controlled toothpaste.

And now we have a new problem to add to the mix: power shortages limit the working hours of commercial establishments… and will probably deepen crime problems.

At this point, it’s safe to say that the “we are a rich country” myth is busted.

This has created a new form of polarization: after the minister for Electric Energy, Luis Motta Dominguez announced that Caracas wouldn’t be included in the initial power-cuts plan because it houses the government. The rest of the country vividly showed their arrechera for the undeniable fact that Caracas is the favorite and most loved kid.

Still, we might feel poor, but we’re not really poor. Even though our salaries can’t cover all our expenses, we are the lucky ones. Because when it comes to low-income Venezuelans, the situation is even more worrying.

According to the Encuesta de Condiciones de Vida UCAB-UCV-USB for 2015, Venezuelans follow a survival diet. Food purchases focus on cheaper calories: animal protein is a luxury food and 40% of the food basket is made up of corn-flour, rice and pasta. This has increased obesity and type 2 diabetes to alarming levels.

“How much longer do we have to tolerate this?”

“What must happen for the government to do something?”

¿HASTA CUÁNDO?

It is said that Greeks invented philosophy because they were the first civilization in modern history to have the spare time to think about who we are and where we came from. As Venezuela’s economy shuts down, as holidays are decreed and people spend their free time standing in line, it might make sense for philosophy to take root in Venezuela.

Perhaps pondering our poverty in the midst of our soul-crushing reality will help us find the answer to these questions.

46 COMMENTS

    • Yeah, but inflicted after almost 40 years of brain-rotting propaganda and policies.
      Populism is what made easy for adecopeyanos to hold power and what paved the way for communists to take over the power in the end of 90s.

  1. Aprovechen esa rabia para empezar a pedir cuentas claras tanto a la oposición como al regimen. Mas a la oposición porque ya sabemos que al regimen le importamos un pepino

  2. It would help if people mentality wasn’t emphasizing so much what the state *ought* to do, and what the state *shouldn’t* be doing, like setting economic prices, or punishing productive activity. But it seems we are forever trapped in the mindset that the state is an entity that *gives*, rather than taking away

    • Right. The role of good government is to provide a stable environment for honest individuals to go about their business and produce and prosper with a minimum of interference either by dishonest people or by government itself.

    • “dame MI gota de petroleo, es mi derecho (y, no importa lo de mas)

      Always struck me as an amusing attitude, coming from professed socialists, where “el pueblo juntos” y “todo en común” are the supposed ideals.

  3. Many people ask me why Venezuelans keep up with this madness? how is it possible to endure so much crap and not setting fire to the whole country and throw the government away ?

    I think a lot about this, and can only conclude that we have been slowly cooked like the famous “sapito en la olla” (the toad in the heating water). We are freakin’ broiled already. And the 3-4 million people that could make a “popular” army to overthrow this regime, are quite busy making more Money (bolivars!!!??) than they made in their whole life only “bachaqueando”.

    The rest 15 million are too busy finding food and/or their familiar “bachaqueros”, and expect somebody else to rise, because they/(we?) (still?) have a lot to lose in the riots. (I can’t die or get busted, somebody else should)

    This 3-4 million bachaqueros and their mafias, are the insurance policy of this government and they know it. As long as these people put their personal gain before the motherland, we will have chavismo at least up till the next general elections, or by way of some miracle, their colapse, or a working revocatorio.

    • But the answer to those questions is easy: they can’t do anything about it, other than leave. Set the country on fire? You end up in the Helicoide. Try and get signatures to recall the President? No can do. Win a legislative election? “Pasa por el TSJ papito, y no te emociones mucho.”

      Venezuelans are prisoners to the perverse system they allowed to take root in the country. They enabled their opressors, and now they are struggling for breathing room. They are doing what they can, but marching, rioting, setting the world on fire only gets you so far.

    • You are quite correct on many points, Elqueteconte. The “Boiling Frog” system was certainly applied in Vzla, from the early days when El Pajarito Comandante Eterno Supremo promised free enterprise, business opportunities and no more corruption.. all lies, of course, as slowly but surely, it turned out to be a dictatorship of sorts, un arroz con mango, an authoritarian regime of crooks and thieves. But they did it Poco a Poco, every year tightening the noose a bit more. So that our rather ignorant “pueblo” wouldn’t notice so much, and got used to it. Now they are even used to endless Colas, horrific crime rates, and even lack of medicines. A few dozen dead people, a few dozen political prisonners, and the Vzlan Reign of Terror was installed.

      The Castrista Boiling Frog Plan worked to perfection. Te lo meten poquito a poco.

      You are also correct in noting that people are just busy surviving, in colas, inventando, buscando tigritos, bachaqueando, so they don’t have that much time left to think, congregate, organize and revolt. On top of that, about 1.5 Million of the brightest, best educated professionals got the hell out of there, like you or me or most readers of this blog. That massive Brain Drain left the country rather clueless, and without leadership.

      Another Castrista Strategy that worked very well in Cubazuela: get rid of the opponents, get rid of the intellectual threats, keep the uneducated, poor and/or older population only.

      Plus the Millions and Millions of Enchufados, crooks, and corrupt Pueblo. And that’s where your analysis fails. THAT is the main thing keeping the criminal regime in power after 17 years: A World-Record 35 or 37 “Ministerios, with over 3 Million offcial public “employees” that do nothing but leech and steal, and indirectly, if you count the other “contratistas” and supposedly private companies working for Chavismo “projects” I’d say it’s closer to 7 MILLION pueblo people, middle class, lower class and upper class thieves, stealing and leeching off the system, in many ways, one way or another. Life ain’t so bad for those Millions of people, mind you, compared to the 90’s when they had nothing.

      THAT is the main reason the regime is still standing, besides Terror, oppression, the corrupt TSJ, Military, Police, Sebin and guardia nazional. But there again, why??? They are corrupt because they are BRIBED with PDVSA dollars. They get special favors, bank accounts, apartments. While the Bachaqueros, without working much, get decent cash. Or how do you think anyone can live with a 12$/month “minimum salary, even even 10 x the “minimum salary”?

      Again, the Castro-Chavista Regime was successful in forcing almost everyone into bachaquerismo, tigritos, segundas, rebusques, so that almost everyone left in the country in now Complicit, one way or another, and in some Guiso or some sort. THAT is why the corrupt system is still standing. Millions and Millions of “pueblo” are involved, and with dirty hands.

      Problem now is that they are getting pissed, because the oil ran dry, y se acabo la buena vida, no mas guisos. That’s all.

  4. I used to get SO tired of hearing Venezuelans respond to my dire predictions about where this would end up by saying “No pana, that could NEVER happen. Venezuela is a rich country.” And now that my predictions have been realized, I take no satisfaction in saying, “I told you so.”

    I once read a quote that said, “Pessimists are right more often, but optimists have more fun.” I am tired of being “right”. I think I am going to buy myself a pair of rose-tinted glasses.

  5. Sadly, these 16 years have revealed the inferior nature of much of the Venezuelan population. Many have even felt jubilant about the national collapse because it meant their “enemies”: the rich, the whites, the ones with a home and a car, were harmed. It will not be easy to recover a country that has so many lazy, resentful, opportunistic people. Hatred is rampant. Padre Ugalde calls for statesmanship to solve our problems. The problem is that there are no statesmen, certainly not in government, none apparent in the opposition.
    The future is murky. Only a major social upheaval led by the Middle Class could result in some degree of national regeneration. Chavismo has to be uprooted from the hearts of the people who grew used to getting in line to wait for a handout.
    A smooth political transition will only be more of the same you know what.

    • Could you not be a bit more positive yourself? E.g. You say “Only a major social upheaval led by the Middle Class could result in some degree of national regeneration.” What do you mean? Presumably you mean the remnants of what used to be a middle class, and that makes sense. A middle class didn’t get there by inheriting riches (unless they blew it all on cars and boats and planes). Most got there by getting an education for themselves as individuals, starting businesses or working for those already started, or a combination of the two, saving money and investing it, spending less than they make, planning, working to realize those plans, and all that is good and gets results (if no socialist tries their “short cut” to “equality”). But what kind of social upheaval led by the middle class?

      I jut get tired of hearing that Venezuelans are somehow of an inferior nature. You could say that about the bottom two quintiles of any country anywhere anytime, and maybe it’s true. You of course cannot say that about the Argentines, or the Spanish. You could also say that the “less equal” are decent people waiting agreeably for some direction by the “more equal.” And in THAT respect, I would say that Venezuela has been a dismal failure with clearly “less equal” leadership than the rest of the world, given the country’s absolutely enviable realized resources of hundred sof billions of dollars of petroleum wealth.

      So don’t go blaming the less equal who trusted. Damn. (Sorry, it just angers me to hear misdirected criticism. Solutions are hard, but that doesn’t mean solutions are not obtainable.)

      • The AN just days ago came out with what you could call a ten-point plan. Near the top is the guarantee of private property. That’s a practical plan and it deserves support. That will attract much needed capital investment. The mid 1970’s saw the then statesmen lead in the wrong direction. That opened doors to more wrong direction. Venezuelan businessmen who had privilege and influence did not think hard and did not step up to amend things. Now the country, it seems to me, does have statesmen who are rejecting violence, pursuing democracy even with its liabilities of less than saintly politics, and offering a plan to bring the place out of chaos. It isn’t more of the same, in my opinion.

        My apologies if I’m out of place. I don’t mean to preempt or insult or offend.

        • Great words gringo! It was that attitude of our racist elite of “ricos bobos”, THEIR laziness, their despise for the rest country what brought us into this situation, not the masses.
          The masses are like natural phenomena or “facts of god” you don’t blame them for occuring, you blame yourself for not preventing, or wanting or knowing how to deal with them.

      • By a social upheaval led by the Middle Class I mean an posture of dignity that perefers to protest openly in the streets, going into a general and indefinite strike, until something happens. Or will the regime put thousands in prison? Why so afraid of facing oir reality? If you get tired of hearing about the laziy and passive attitude of the Venezuelan people during these last 16 years get ready to be more tired. The “more equal” that you mention is what I called the middle class. When you say that the more equal should direct the less equal this is exactly what I said.

    • Gustavo, unfortunately the “middle class”, as a group, has been decimated, and, economically, doesn’t even reach poor class status in developed countries–so don’t expect much leadership here. The 80+% D-E classes might respond to a competent/educated/patriotic Bolivar-type leader who really cared about their well-being, but none seems available. Venezuela traditionally has been about the rape/pillaging of its wealth/natural resources, not by some foreign powers in the last 50 or so years (with the exception of Cuba), but by strong/well-connected Venezuelans against the vast majority weak/uneducated/poor Venezuelans. The siren song of Communism, clothed in “Bolivarian Socialism”, since Communism historically was favored only by about 3% of the general population, has completed the devastation of the Country, worse yet when oil, the one real savior, is changing from the “Golden Goose” to the “Cooked Goose”. The social upheaval, if it hopefully comes, and the sooner the better, must cast off the Communist curse from below, since, so long as this curse remains, even in a “coalition government”, no capital manager in his right mind would invest any meaningful amounts into the Venezuelan abyss.

      • And that’s why communism looks to destroy the middle class first, because they have not enough economic power to defend themselves, yet have enough brains to not be deceived by the fallacies of communism.

      • Middle Class is not just about income or quality of life but a way of looking at things , a way of behaving , a vocation to care about the future , about taking charge of ones life and assuming reponsibility for ones own welfare and the welfare of ones children, a capacity for self discipline and self restraint ……….to be middle class is to live according to a set of self demanding values and standards …..the economic definition is too narrow…………precisely the goal of govt should be to help people who are either vocationally middle class in their minds and personality but lead lives of want marginality or pemury to gain the means to achieve a comfortable middle class life in the economic sense of the term, through their own productive effort ……..!!

  6. Muy buena la foto. Y lo siento much por ella… en la calle, desesperada, pero con su guacamaya. De donde salio? Deberian de poner creditos.

  7. Is there any possibility that the Chavistas have an interim ace in the hole other than the longer term wish for higher oil prices, Have they withheld goods and services even beyond what the current circumstances would dictate allowing them to buy more time with some level of improvement. They must have some strategy to survive or they would be fleeing the country.

  8. Perhaps it’s time for the AN to offer Maduro a way out. If you resign within the next thirty days you will be allowed to go your way or you and your friends will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This would be for the benefit of all Venezuela and help put recovery on the road. It is an obscene compromise but Venezuela comes first. Not political game playing.

      • Nothing is iron clad where there is money to be found. Restitution is a follow up. Godgiven is the most dangerous man in Venezuela and has to go. The Chavez children must return what is not theirs.

        • For DC, there is nowhere else to go, with the exception of Cuba, Iran, or North Korea. When all the details of his “business” dealings come out, he will be a wanted man everywhere on the planet.

  9. Sort of OT….but I see that the presidential A319 (FAV0001) returned to Venezuela yesterday from France and it was in the air this afternoon flying from Maquitea to Barcelona. Is that going to be the escape vehicle if/when the s..t hits the fan and num-nuts and silly flowers need to bug out to Cuba

  10. Brilliantly depressing piece, Anabella. Tremendous recap on our ever-worsening national woes.

    I’d like to add one soul-crushing bit that learned this afternoon after having lunch with a friend. The guy works at a labor law firm, and told me that most (if not all) of his recent cases have been about layoffs, more specifically in the pharmaceutical industry.

    One of the scariest quotes: “Las farmacéuticas multinacionales en Venezuela ya no existen; sólo quedan juntas liquidadoras”. Pharma companies left the country, and there’s no dollars left for importing medicine. What are we supposed to do?…

    • And pharma is one of Maduro’s key “motores”, of which he recently said that Venezuela has the most developed pharma production facilities on the continent (he didn’t mention they’re all closed) Even worse for some, anasthesia for operations is difficult to come by–a well-connected Dr. friend in one of Caracas’s 3 best clinics had 5 emergency operations waiting, but enough anesthesia for only 2 of them….

  11. Offer him one or two million (usd) and a middle class stipend to leave for the island or country of his choice. It would be worth it. Perhaps then things would get things done, All water is under the bridge. I am over seventy and have had a lot of time to think. I have lived in Venezuela in the Chaves years, and part of the Madura years. What is best for Venezuela?

  12. This govt is determined not to be ousted despite the cauldron of discontent which is boiling the country , they will fight every inch of the way using whatever means are at their disposal , no matter how fraudulent and criminal. They hold control over certain basic institutions and are not shy about using them to sabotage all Oppo attempts at getting them out of power, this of course was to be expected , the oppo must assumme the stamina, obstinance and spirit of the long distance runner, learn to perfect its fighting methods as it carries on its struggle , try one strategy and if that doesnt work out try another and another , again and again , never faltering , never giving up on its goal to restore sanity to Venezuelas public life ……..the thing is to keep the pressure to boiling point , making every regime abuse pay in terms of the discontent it creates , History teaches us that no regime is invulnerable , we might thing looking at it from the outside that it is solid , while inside all sort of inner fractures are building and growing …….until the whole edifice all of a sudden collapses under its own weight .

    There will always be some people intoxicated by the regimes bloated rethoric and tinsel delusions , no matter , all thats needed is for a certain critical mass of discontent to be there , feverishly waiting the opportunity to get rid of it. the flames that rise from that increasing discontent are fanned constantly by the govts many abuses and failures , its not going away, the thing is not to feel so broken in spirit that the rage goes away ……., we all dream with glorious apocalyptic moments of liberation , but the regime may fall without the need for such moment to happen …….lets keep our faith , lets keep our indignation and resolve at fighting pitch and not be discouraged if the struggle doesnt move in a straight line …….. but takes a zig zag line towards its resolution…!!

  13. “What must happen for the government to do something?”

    This sentence explains everything, as it seems many Venezuelans still do not realize that the Government is the problem, not the solution. They still cannot grasp that their hero Chavez was nothing more than a con-man and raped the country.

    For those of you that understand the problem, do your best to educate the others and open their eyes.

  14. Almost forgot: broken estarás tú.

    Victims need saving. That’s why it makes for shitty politics. It is the one thing that made me hate the oppo from the start. Specially since they have always, even if less and less, been the ones with the money!

    Man up, Venezuela, coño! Ya está bueno con la lloradera!

    Boohoo we are inferior boohoo they make us wait in line…

    Dreadful.

  15. The grief and hopelessness on the face of that woman sitting on the mattress must be something that many Chavistas have a hard time dealing with. That’s someone’s daughter, sister, wife. The widening divisions within the party must be well, widening. There is always a way out, but I hope one is found before an epidemic breaks out or the power goes down for a week. I just don’t see the gov ever letting the referendum go down, even if bodies were lying in the streets. At this point, a military backing this insane regime is nearly guilty of crimes against humanity. Hate to feel pessimistic but that woman’s face took the wind outta me.

  16. They just don’t care.

    And about the military support and bodies piling up on the streets, that’s been happening since 2002, when the butcher sent the Llaguno gunmen to rain death over the pople.

  17. it is easy to confuse irrational or stupid with fear of risk. I have relatives in the US who wont give up welfare benefits even though the rational choice would be to give up the benefits and take a job that would pay more money.

    They take a very “conservative” view of risk, concluding that the smaller monthly welfare check is more secure than a job.

    I suspect that a lot of the support for Maduro are people making a similar calculation Socialism preys on economically risk adverse people, many of whom are poor.

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