From 2013-2015, as I took a break from actively managing Caracas Chronicles, I worked on a couple of projects in East Africa. That’s why I know about IRIN — a newswire focused on humanitarian that was part of the UN system back then.

IRIN was the place you went to to find out the latest about conditions in the infamous Dadaab Refugee Camp, about atrocities in South Sudan and disease outbreaks in Eastern Congo. It’s pretty hardcore stuff, the kinds of news UN relief agencies needed to plan operations in the world’s absolutely worst-off places.

Which is why it was such a jolt to find this story, by Sofia Barbarani, on the IRIN website this morning:

It’s barely dawn and the streets of Caracas are largely empty, except for heavy-eyed commuters heading to work and hungry Venezuelans scavenging through the rubbish for breakfast.

The men and women meticulously pick their way through foul-smelling black plastic bags in the hope of finding some edible scraps. Passers-by don’t give them a second glance. This is an increasingly common sight in Venezuela’s capital.

Despite having one of the world’s largest oil reserves, years of government mismanagement along with a tumble in oil prices have led to the catastrophic collapse of Venezuela’s economy, food supply, health system, and basic services, leaving a population desperate for help – more than eight in 10 Venezuelans now live below the poverty line.

NGOs treated like spies

The government’s stance means that international and local NGOs attempting to alleviate the crisis face numerous obstacles.

“It’s been a while now since we began seeing an increase in threats, harassment and even physical attacks on activists and NGOs,” said Inti Rodriguez of local NGO, PROVEA.

PROVEA tackles the complex issue of human rights in Venezuela, including citizen’s rights to medicine and food. Like other non-profits, the government has accused PROVEA of receiving financial backing from foreign organisations, including the CIA, and of being agents in an international conspiracy to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

“This was a constant [problem] during [the administration of former President] Chavez, but it has increased with Maduro,” said Rodriguez, who was abducted in February 2014, allegedly by a coalition of government-affiliated guerrillas and the Venezuelan intelligence services, SEBIN, who beat him and questioned him about his humanitarian work.

NGOs in Venezuela have felt particularly vulnerable since 2010 when the Supreme Court ruled that individuals or organisations receiving foreign funding “with the purpose of being used against the Republic” could be prosecuted for treason and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison…

There’s a powerful sense of two worlds colliding as I read about Venezuela in the key of IRIN.

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  1. “Despite having one of the world’s largest oil reserves…” It’s the punch-line of a bad joke, proof the speaker does not understand the issues in Vz. Frequently we see this phrase from foreign journos, but Toro does’nt have that excuse. He lives in an alternate fantasy imagined universe where Marxism is not slavery.

    Clue: Venezuela will never again produce any significant revenue from oil. Their goal should be th meet their own needs in a sustainable way.

    • My guess is you are either completely new to this blog, you have an extraordinarily short memory, or the act of casting off unsubstantiated and ridiculous opinions gives you a little tiny endorphin rush that gets you through your otherwise bland and meaningless day.

        • I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone on the planet who disputed that the goal of Venezuelans should be to meet their needs in a sustainable way.

          I’m talking about the first part of your comment. Flipping it to me is a familiar gesture but I believe there is something latin for the principle that he who lays the turd must prove, or something like that.

          • PdVSA too broken for even Igor Sechin to fix. That plus alternate energy and fuel sources have sealed Venezuela”s fate. Guyana will be pumping in three years. US drilling and fracking technologies getting better and Trump will be friendly towards oil and coal. Not a good scenario for PDVSA, Rosneft, CNPC, and ONGC.

          • At its peak, Vz gross petro revenue was USD2300 per person-year — not enough to make a poor country rich.

            Now Vz gross petro revenue is less than USD700 per person-year –lower than production costs. Of course, very little of that gets back to the Venezuelan people.

            With nationalized servicing they have nothing left sustainable, not production, refining, transport, nothing.

            There’s a very strong case that petroleum makes poor countries poorer. “We are wealthy with oil” just placates the masses.

    • Without getting into the debate of wether we will “produce any significant revenue from oil” again, I’ll just say that the line you mention, the infamous “Despite having one of the world’s largest oil reserves…” is part of a quote (from Sofia Barbarani’s article). It wasn’t written by Quico.
      Francamente, hay gente que solo quiere joder…

      • GhersN –

        That seems to me more of a slip of utter frustration, a frustration I have felt myself. It is socialism which is to blame, and it is extremely frustrating to see socialists do so much damage to everyone, and still be convinced they are so right. Words of opposition and logic against them is met with snide remarks, innuendo, accusations, angry words, violent protests, riots, looting, burning businesses, and ultimately, heavy fire and military takeover. All in the name of “being right.”

        The reply to Ceteris Paribus would be simple: “Of course you are right that it is not an issue of oil, and whether oil will ever again be what it once was, is indeed a weighty question. The phrase ‘despite having one of the world’s largest oil reserves’ was not my statement.” (Or shorter: “Not my statement.”)

        Nothing serves the regime better than to watch infighting develop.

        The main point CP makes has to do with Venezuela’s urgent need to aim towards a free market capitalist economy and at the least, food sufficiency. The resources are there. That should indeed be the debate. How to develop those resources. The mentality of “oil will rescue us” may make sense to the regime, but to no one else.

        • I would not call it socialism. Its more like a dayly attack on the most basic foundations of common sense with a certain destructive style of permanent confrontation.
          Whats socialism anyway?
          Looking at socialism from a german pov, you may see socialists as those galls and guys, who fought for a good basic education and thoughtfull training on the job for the “unwashed masses”, which might be an important building brick for our export success.
          Or is it Ciccarriello (spell.?) rethorics about the wonders of the “comune” (whatever that actually is).
          Or price controls? You had a lot of price controls in the UK economy way into the 60ties, even under conservative Governments. In Sweden under Olav Palme, Astrid Lindgren one year had to pay 103% income taxes, but there were not much price controls.

          • “Whats socialism anyway?”

            It’s communism, Fider himself said so, and that’s what matter to the case of Venezuela, regardless on what it meant in other countries.

      • Btw – The point of Fransisco’s reprint of the article from IRIN, and his previous experience with IRIN, is shocking. Living in a city the size of Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo – all major cities – leaves one very vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. A government harassing Polar for example, and crashing national productivity by 50% on average across the board, depleting international reserves … and everything else … IRIN’s warning, and Fransisco’s, may be too late. An Empire Gone Mad.

  2. Things are bad in Venezuela and the government deserves a lot of the blame, along with the opposition, business community and the USA.

    Things are much worse in many other places.

    Look at Haiti when you push for foreign intervention. Humanitarian assistance brought diptheria. The Red Cross has built six homes.

    Not the United States and not anyone else is going to feed 30,000,000 Venezuelans. Honest Venezuelans from many political persuasions who love their country must sit down together and produce effective solutions. There really is no alternative.

    • “Things are bad in Venezuela and the government deserves a lot of the blame, along with the opposition, business community and the USA”

      No, the government deserves the blame. What is this nonsense?

      They are the ones who had complete and unfettered power for past 12 years (and 17 total in rule), this is what they have wrought. They are ones who destroyed the economy, destroyed productive capacity, decimated oil production, etc, and they are ones who refuse aid.

      They, and they alone, stand in the way of solutions. They’d rather let their people die and suffer then admit the mess they created, or even think about sharing power.

      • Really, I want to scream every time I hear about the “economic war”. The only war that has been waged is the one by the government against a formerly functioning economy that is now so twisted, distorted and practically destroyed that it will take years to undo the disaster.

        • It is far easier (and more politically expedient, as the MUD/AN has found) to bash a straw man or imaginary opponent than to deal with bigger problems at hand.

          I read stories like this and want to donate and help in some fashion. Then I look at the MUD/AN and the Chavistas in power and realize that no matter how much I give, it is only going to get worse.

          Much worse.

        • I am quite persuaded that if Venezuela had continued to be run according to the admittedly flawed but more commonsensical practices of the 4th republic Venezuela would not be suffering the horrors that we are experiencing now after 16 years of doctrinaire and fanatical misgovernment .

          The oppo being absolutely excluded from any participation in the affairs of government cannot be blamed for what is evidently the fault of the gross economic mismanagement of the current regime

          • Support for your proposition: even with $10 oil in 1998- which not coincidentally was the year that Chavez won election- Venezuela was not at the state of collapse it is now.

        • He’s a bernilieber, you know, those who support the guy who thinks that 5-hour long lines to attempt to buy food are the greatest thing since sliced bread because “everybody can buy the food now”, and complains that there are too many brands of deodorant in the market.

          Also, he’s a racist, a dirty racist:

          You could stick him with the rest of those called “morons without borders” (Pendejos sin fronteras), who are dedicated to frantically defend chavismo without even knowing a bit what the hell they’re talking about.

          His ignorance about the situation and its causes in Venezuela would be hilarious if there wasn’t so much people dying as a consequence.

          In fact, for just one example, you can ask him if he knows what the “agro food control integrated system” aka “sistema integral de control agroalimentario” SICA is, and the only response he would be able to provide would be a tone for a busy phone.

      • First I want to thank Mr. Toro for allowing me to post my opinions here.

        I constantly point to the ongoing embezzlement of hundreds of billions of dollars, the kind of money that even if only half of it could be recovered and invested wisely would go a very long way towards bringing Venezuela out of its crisis.

        Telesur English pointed it out
        but overlooked the government’s role. Still it seems that only some marginal political players campaign for an audit of the CADIVI dollar give away and steps to get the money back. So I am assuming that the government and MUD and Caracas Chronicles are in unity about taking no action.

        By labelling Venezuela a threat to United States security President Obama makes it more difficult for Venezuela to obtain credit and scares businesses and tourism away from Venezuela.

        While there is more than one motive for fracking and other steps to end energy imports it has been made plain that one motivation is to harm the economies of Russia, Iran and Venezuela, “people who hate us.”

        A United States “humanitarian” intervention would not solve Venezuela’s problems (though returning I’ll gotten embezzled gains that are in the US would be a good gesture.)

        I had hope in the dialogue. I think it could and should be revived.

  3. NGOs as spies is part of the same crap I have been reading and hearing and seeing in Russia,
    the law “On Amendments to Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation regarding the Regulation of the Activities of Non-profit Organisations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent”.
    And there is extra legislation making life difficult for a lot of organisations in Russia.

    What I really pray for is that Venezuela does not become what Russia is when it comes to political indifference after these years: “no, yo no meto con eso”. That is what Diosdado and the rest of that scum wants.

  4. OT: Free Joshua Holt now! This blog does not cover much the odyssey of American hostage Josh Holt who is a political pawn. If Josh is not released before Donald Trump takes office, I can guarantee that will be a big mistake. Fair warning and word to the wise.

    • Many of us keep Josh Holt in mind, even as this blog has bigger fish to fry(sorry). However, if you would like to send someone to protest in Washington DC (perhaps in front of the OAS) I would be more than happy to support the effort.

  5. “…returning [ill] gotten embezzled gains that are in the US would be a good gesture.”
    Returning them to whom, exactly?


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