That’s the real headline you won’t read in the papers.

At this stage of socialism, marked by food shortages, hunger, State-sponsored terrorism; chavismo has declared that the best way to control bread production is by having civilian and military fiscales inspecting each and every bakery to “guarantee” that all the flour is being used for whatever the government wants it to be used.

“We will ensure that bread production is not interrupted and that its cost structure is controlled, in order to cover demand and get rid of queues!” 

So goes their propaganda, and followers cheer. But don’t think for a moment that hunger has made them stupid. They were like that before and supported every assault on our freedom in the name of safeguarding it. It’s not despair but vengeance that makes the government hold cold metal rifles to the heads of bread producers. With bakeries, they have the perfect excuse to persecute and restrict those who still produce, who still remain somewhat owners of their fates. It’s also an excuse for the xenophobia against Portuguese immigrants; discrimination always surfaces when the government takes over businesses, just think of Chinese supermarket owners last year.

Mired in fear and self-censorship, bakers are smart, they reveal the truth in simple and terrified words: “we’ll gladly bake the bread, so long as they give us the flour.

Bakers must bake the way they’re ordered to do so by the narcos, narcos who haven’t baked anything these past few years except their fortunes.

But Maduro and his cronies avoid telling that part of the story. My childhood bakery used to get 600 sacks of flour a month, and now it must make do with 30 for all of March. All the wheat in Venezuela, the wheat shipped to this tropical nation of ours, depends on Corporación Casa, which is to say the military, the government itself. Mills remain still without that wheat. Without mills, there’s no distribution. Without distribution, bakeries get only scraps. And with those scraps, bakers try to bridge the gaps. What they lose selling the loaves of bread at the price the hegemon mandates, they try to recover with sweets, cakes and cachitos. But that will soon be over. They will only be able to use 10% of what they get for those other, revenue-generating, sinful tasks —and a regime official will be there everyday to make sure it stays that way.

We’re talking about flour, but bakers are also they’re also stifled by shortages of lard, butter, yeast, sugar and milk, so every simple recipe becomes an epic deed. Whenever you see someone baking something at home, be mindful of all the tramoya of black markets and smuggling involved in the process of bringing that food to the table.

There are more chavistas controlling, restricting, overseeing and threatening other people’s productive work, than there are actually working and producing themselves.

The truth chavismo never mentions is that people are eating more bread because they can’t find corn flour for arepas, nor rice or pasta. At least not like before, or at a price they can afford. Before chavismo, Venezuela used to export rice. Now, we couldn’t even properly sow this current growing season. Venezuela used to produce all the corn needed to feed its citizens, and now people are searching for food in the garbage. And, about the pasta, let’s keep in mind that while Venezuela used to be the second consumer of past per capita in the world, thanks to our beautiful Italian immigration —pasta production also depends on scarce wheat.

And so we must stand in line, but only if we have money to. We must stand in line for bread while the baker must work and produce —not in the way that he’s used to doing so all his life— but the way he’s ordered to do so by the narcos, narcos who haven’t baked anything these past few years except their fortunes.

If you pay attention, you’ll see there are more chavistas controlling, restricting, overseeing and threatening other people’s productive work, than there are actually working and producing themselves.

There’s not enough of anything, and we’ll keep hearing the champions of the socialism franchise insist that  “this isn’t true socialism.” Right, because lines for bread in Russia, Ukraine, Poland or Cuba were only trial and error. Policy whoopsies. Because Maduro spoke of “the great leap forward” without saying that when Mao applied that leap in China, he caused millions to starve to death.

I got on a bus to the Andrés Bello avenue in Caracas yesterday. There was a 78-year old man sitting beside me with a scrawny and pale bread in a bag. His name was Alberto. He was heading to the other side of the city. He stood in line for two hours. He ate the bread in small but quick bites. No filling. It was his first meal of the day, at 3:00 p.m. He doesn’t know if he’ll find more tomorrow “without fighting.” He too feels the cold metal rifle held to his head.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Every time I read a story like this, I am reminded of the novel, “Atlas Shrugged” and its images of the United States falling into a dystopian socialistic/communistic tyranny of oafs and thugs. At the time I read it, I took it to be an exaggerated cautionary parable. I really never thought to take it as a literal prediction of what could happen. And yet, every day in Venezuela I see more examples of events and political rhetoric that could be literally lifted from the pages of that novel. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The author, Ayn Rand, grew up in the old USSR. She saw this sort of stuff first hand. And yet still, I would have never believed it possible… until now.

    • I even cried reading Atlas Shrugged… Yes, I’m Venezuelan, and I still live in Venezuela. It’s hard to believe we are going through this madness and our neighbours don’t say a thing about it, don’t raise a flag and try to help, because day after day, it feels like people inside our borders lose power to do something about this.

  2. I send a box of food every couple of months to my family from Houston. About 20 kg of food cost somewhere between $150-250. Sending the box is about $50-80 and it takes 6-8 weeks to arrive. Thus the cost of 20 kg of imported food is in the ballpark of $350 by the time it reaches Yaracuy. That helps to feed three adults and about four kids. Last December I sent two boxes.

    It would be probably easier to send $350 and trade in the black market for whatever you get in Bs. nowadays. But the family said that even with money they are not able to buy a lot of stuff and/or if all the sudden they get to start buying a lot of stuff they would raise the suspicion of the patriotas cooperantes. Nevertheless, my uncle is not allowed to buy food in any “people’s” supermarket due to be unequivocally in the opposition side.

    Eggs, fresh protein and some basic staples are just a memory for my family. Thus, I also send canned tuna, sardines and spam to give them a modicum of (animal) protein. The last shipment had Harina Pan made in the imperio (seriously, not in Colombia but in US). It is the last irony on a very long list of ironies.

    • Colomine,
      Does the shipment arrive intact? Why the long lead time of 6-8 weeks? Does cargo move with ocean freight?
      Thanks,
      Gordon…

      • The service is called “Puerta a puerta”, door to door. It’s basically contraband, doesn’t go through customs. You can send anything you want. If by ship, you pay by the cubic foot around 15-17 dollars. Transit time varies depending on how often the consolidator ships a container, I have seen from 3 to 6 weeks. Air is much faster, that goes by weight, if the box is light they convert the volume to weight, much more expensive too.
        Tons of companies do it in Miami, you can choose to send to Guanta, La Guaira or Puerto Cabello. Choose the closest because internal shipping will be extremely expensive and unsafe.

      • Well, intact won’t be a word I will use to describe it but since it is mostly dry stuff whatever breaks up stays in the box and it is used. We use toilet paper to serve the dual purpose of packing cushion and clean the regime grievances post shipment. The liquid stuff (canned) stays in the center. As added cost we use HomeDepot reinforced boxes and a lot of reinforced packing tape.

        As Wanley said, we use sea shipments. In Canada the service is only by air and about 5 kg cost $50-80 CAD thus only medicine is cost effective (if there is such a thing). There is plenty of providers in Houston and Miami and it seems legit at least in the US. You don’t pay until the box lands safely.

        The real trafficking starts once it arrives in Venezuela. We send the box to Caracas and then a family member drives it to Yaracuy (no shipment goes to “minor cities”, slums or weird directions). So, he has to basically spread the contraband (food) in the car and go through a lot of pain to:

        1. Not get robbed by thieves
        2. Not get robbed by the GNB
        3. Not get in jail after being robbed by the Sebin
        4. Not get robbed by the Yaracuy Police
        5. Not get the stuff to himself (which in its own requires a higher moral fiber)
        6. Avoid untargeted family members filtering out the content of the box
        7. Don’t get stranded on the road with a car without proper maintenance then get robbed by 1-4

        The food is kept hidden from peeking eyes and only few people knows about it. The food (20 cagados kilos de comida)` is rationed to stretched until the next shipment about two months down the road.

        Shit I just wrote a very depressing tale of a food contrabandist, perhaps cocaine would be less difficult and certainly more lucrative to deal with!

        Hope it helps Gordon.

        • Colomine,
          Thank you very much for the detailed description of the “contraband’s” journey. A far different tale from my experience as a lad back in the late 70’s to early 80’s. When I “smuggled” Bubblelicious chewing gum and assorted other US sundries to my Venezuelan friends. Good God.

        • What a shame honest guys have to exile themselves while hiring smugglers simply to be able to feed their families stayed at home.

  3. I humbly suggest that Caracas Chronicles does an article exploring the Chavista campaign of “food sovereignty”, those international groups who were duped by it, and contrasting that with the reality today.

    *Haven’t heard Maduro or any cronies talk about food sovereignty in awhile…did that go by the wayside?

  4. The last inadequate Govt. imports of wheat flour were mostly ripped off by bachaquero re-sellers, such as Colectivos/Military/related, and most didn’t even make it to the panaderias. It’s amusing/tragic to see Govt. announcements of so many “toneladas” of different types of food imports, with no one, including the Oppo, doing the math to see that they only amount to an ounce or two (or fraction thereof) per each of Venezuela’s 30 million inhabitants. En el pais de los ciegos, no hay ni un tuerto que pudiera ser rey….”

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