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.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.