Emma Graham-Harrison’s story for The Observer The Guardian’s Sunday edition about the spread of hunger in Venezuela this year is one of the most skillful, harrowing, sensitive treatments of an unspeakable subject. Graham-Harrison has a special gift for injecting humanity and warmth into a subject of unparalleled brutality.

Hunger is gnawing at Venezuela, where a government that claims to rule for the poorest has left most of its 31 million people short of food, many desperately so. As night falls over Caracas, and most of the city’s residents lock their doors against its ever more violent streets, Adriana Velásquez gets ready for work, heading out into an uncertain darkness as she has done since hunger forced her into the only job she could find at 14.

She was introduced to her brothel madam by a friend more than two years ago after her mother, a single parent, was fired and the two ran out of food. “It was really hard, but we were going to bed without eating,” said the teenager, whose name has been changed to protect her.

Since then Venezuela’s crisis has deepened, the number of women working at the brothel has doubled, and their ages have dropped. “I was the youngest when I started. Now there are girls who are 12 or 13. Almost all of us are there because of the crisis, because of hunger.”

Strong as her opening story is, her exposition of the economics behind the hunger crisis is just as lucid, cutting through reams of irrelevant detail to get to the nub of the issue.

Venezuela used to produce more than two-thirds of its food, and import the rest, but those proportions are now reversed, with imports making up around 70% of what the country eats.

When crude prices began sliding in 2014, bringing down oil earnings, it left the country short of dollars, and the government decided to focus its income on servicing the national debt rather than importing food.

It’s a stunning piece, beginning to end.

30 COMMENTS

      • “nothing can be done”….that is the modern approved mindset, not just in Venezuela by the way. Surely something can be done if people are willing to accept the consequences and I am not advocating violence because I believe no one outside of Venezuela has standing to do that. But tbe trend today seems to reject any form of serious economic pressure as unacceptable because it will cause widespread suffering by Venezuelans. But, if I am to believe reports on this blog, Venezuelans are already suffering widespread hardships. There is no immaculate soluton to ridding yourselves of this government unless you believe in the fable that the Chavistas will negotiate themselves into exile. Good luck with that one.

        • I saw a kid this morning wearing a pair of pants that 6 months ago were almost too small for him. Today, they’re practically falling off of him. A kid of 11 or 12…..who should be growning by leaps and bounds but is instead losing weight.

          If I hadn’t seen most of the people in this pueblo losing significiant weight over the last year, I’d tend to doubt some of the stories about how hard it is to find food. But the stories are true. And it’s not just that most can’t fill their stomachs, it’s that the youngest and most vulnerable are not getting anything close to balanced diets which is a real longterm threat to their physical and mental development.

          Sad. But then, we’ve got patria!!!! Revolution!!!!!

  1. Dun worry and be happy, as everything will be magically solved in the next election in 2019, if delcy feels in the mood to make the elections by then…

  2. I read the fill article. Yes, It was harrowing and depressing, but of course she had to put in the whole “Chavez helping the poor myth” in there. These champagne socialists will never fully admit of Chavez as the main culprit behind the destruction of this country. Helping the poor for a while? Really? For fucks sake. Even in the face of total societal control through hunger (yes, this is all done on purpose, read a history book) and hyperinflation, with an expose on a generation of malnourished kids, she still had to interview the low IQ fuckwit spewing propaganda and the ‘he helped me for a while bit.’ It makes my blood boil.

  3. There are plenty of young, attractive Venezuelan women in Costa Rica who, formerly employed in more mainstream occupations in Venezuela, are prostitutes. Which is heartbreaking, because they are the same ages as my sobrinas who recently fled. It could have been them, under different circumstances.

    I imagine the situation is similar in Panama and Columbia. I cannot fathom what the situation is like in border cities in Columbia for women who are truly desperate.

  4. I remember back in the 90s after the Soviet Union fell and Cuba entered it’s “special period” there were plenty of articles in the NYT about foreign tourists paying for their very young “girlfriends” with some hotel soap, some food for the family and maybe a few US dollars…

  5. Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world. It is neither glamorous nor is it going to go away any time soon. The fact that young girls are drawn into it to put food on the table is no different today than in other times long ago when money was tight.

    The difference here is that it is the gubmint they voted for that is putting them into this situation. Not some unethical land lord or task master. The Chavistas and the MUD are the real pimps.

        • “He didn’t say that, even IMPLY that, at all.”

          He’s doing his victim-blaming thing again, which yes, it’s the same as blaming a child for the criminal that raped the child’s mother and said child was conceived from that rape.

          It’s the same as “they voted for this gumbbbmbmbbbwwintt, so they deserve it”

          As if anyone actually voted for chavismo since 1998…

          • Damn right I blame the parents who voted for communism. It is not the fault of their kids the parents chose poorly.

            Maduro got into power through an election process and the AN decided to abdicate their responsibilities over the last year.

            Chavez won handily in his last election.

            We don’t have to go back to 1998 to witness this.

          • “We don’t have to go back to 1998 to witness this.”

            Yes, we have, in fact, we should blame those who betrayed the country by not killing chavez on the spot during the 4F, and those who later let him to speak in public TV against CAP’s explicit orders.

            Another one to blame was Caldera and his cabinet who crumbled to the terrorists’ pressure and released shavez later and gave him back all his political rights even when he was responsible of the murders of three hundred people in two days.

            “They get what they deserve” is not aimed at “the parents”, it’s a gargajo straight to the face of those who’ve been murdered and those whose lives have been destroyed by these cursed invaders and their rotten lackeys.

      • I blame the parents who voted for these communists pimps that put their children into that lifestyle.

        But read from my post what you will.

  6. But, we got “patria”…..This weekend, on TV, another red-shirted brainwashed individual, was haranguing the bused crowd with empty slogans promising ” to rather die of hunger than betraying chaves”…..Of course that wont happen to her, since the regime controls the distribution of food, and can decide among the poor, who dies….or who doesn’t.

    During the weekend, a person goes to “Avila Clinica” (a nicer medical center in CCS) complaining of chest pains and NO doctor is present to perform an examination, addressing what is obviously a cardiac event, when every minute counts. After several hours, the person becomes unresponsive and eventually, declared dead in the evening. This did not appear on TV, there was no publicity. But this happened for REAL.

    For all those extolling the virtues of “non violence”, please explain if monopolizing the distribution of food, allowing hospitals (even private ones – for lack of “divisas”) to be run without medicines and allowing the bolivar to become worthless, is not a form of violence. Maybe the worst form of violence, since it qualifies as torture.

    It is beyond comprehension to hear the Oppo denouncing a potential “invasion” just because the US POTUS and VP indicated that “all options are on the table”, when Venezuela is already invaded by the Cubans and Narcos. This is like a family being robbed and raped at gunpoint and demanding that no one intervenes with force, believing that there is a way out of the situation leaving them alone.

    Why is the “calle” quiet? The people can’t be fooled! It is obvious that there is an “entente” between PJ, VP, UNT and and the regime. There is a term for that: Collaborationists!. Sort of a Vichy type of government.

    Unfortunately, now it is a numbers game. How many more Venezuelans would need to die. It is not as if the Venezuelans have not already paid in blood. Over 200K and counting over the past 18 years. Regardless of “sanctions”, intervention is a must. Chacao’s Muchacho had the cojones to state it. There is absolutely no way out on “democratic” methods. Does anybody even remotely believe that with the current CNE and FANB they regime will lose an election? They stole at least 3 million votes with Smartmatic, won’t they do it again with Jesse’s machines? Who cares if the Oppo/MUD have the freaking “actas”? You know what the regime is going to use the actas for? In the best Chaveztia tradition, that is the final step after “washing el palto”!

    If by a Machiavellian maneuver, the Oppo/MUD is allowed to win some insignificant presence, in the end, the regime will arrange for a puppet official to be in charge. How is the Oppo/MUD planning to “defend the vote”? Non violence? Signing for other upcoming elections?

    Regarding intervention: It is not fair for the US, but in history, when you stand for what is right, there are tough choices, never “fair”. The US could have found a way to isolate itself from both WWI and WWII, however, in a magnanimous way, it gave its most precious resources (over half a million casualties) so the World could be a better place. At the same time, the US developed as the World’s superpower. Nowadays, there is a risk for the US to lose relevance in the Americas and abroad.

    Venezuela wont’ be a battle for any invasion force. Most Venezuelans love anything related to the US. Maybe the alleged 30K – 50K Cubans might try to resist, but that wont’ be for long.Is the US going to allow the communist cancer to spread from Venezuela to Colombia and possibly even Mexico? In that case, an electrified wall with a moat wont be enough to deter the hundreds of thousands trying to make it to the North.

  7. Venezuela used to produce more than two-thirds of its food, and import the rest, but those proportions are now reversed, with imports making up around 70% of what the country eats.

    This is an appropriate time to revisit the lefty lies of our friends at Counterpunch.
    Counterpunch 2008: Land and Food in Venezuela.
    When Hugo Chávez took office after his election in 1998, his government inherited two fundamental problems related to food production and distribution. Fifty-five percent of the people lived in poverty, and the country imported 70 percent of its food.

    Counterpunch 2013: The Achievements of Hugo Chavez.
    While 90% of the food was imported in 1980, today this is less than 30%.

    FAO Food Balance Sheets- measured in metric tons- can give a rough estimate of the accuracy of these Chavista claims. Granted, it might be more accurate using dollars or Bs as the measure, but for rough estimates, tonnage will suffice.
    For the 2013 article, we don’t know which year or aggregate of years is used for the claim. I will arbitrarily use 2010 data.
    We sum up FAO data. Quantity is expressed in thousands of metric tons.

    2010 Venezuela FAO, thousands of metric tons.
    Domestic supply quantity 31576
    Import Quantity 8472

    For 2010, this gives imports as proportion of domestic supply as 27%- which is accurate for the Counterpunch claim of Chavismo’s food imports of less than 30%.

    1998 Venezuela FAO, thousands of metric tons.
    Domestic supply quantity 26418
    Import Quantity 4946

    In 1998, imports were 19% of domestic supply, as measured in gross tonnage, while Counterpunch claimed 70%. As 1998 was a year of $11 oil, there was less money for importing food.

    1980 Venezuela FAO, thousands of metric tons.
    Domestic supply quantity 18254
    Import Quantity 4594

    In 1998, imports were 25% of domestic supply, as measured in gross tonnage,while Counterpunch claimed 90%.

    Note that FAO data checks with Chavista claims of food imports during Chavismo- which implies that FAO data provides a good measure of imports versus food supply. As such, Counterpunch articles have made totally false claims regarding food imports before Chavismo.

    FAO has no data beyond 2013, so we can’t use FAO for the current state of food imports.

    http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/FBS

  8. This weekend, on TV, another red-shirted brainwashed individual, was haranguing the bused crowd with empty slogans promising ” to rather die of hunger than betraying chaves”…..Of course that wont happen to her, since the regime controls the distribution of food, and can decide among the poor, who dies….or who doesn’t.
    ——
    I have a close relative who works in a hospital in Caracas and owing to the almost complete lack of medicines and materials, every day the doctors must play God and decide who lives and who dies, according to what little resource they can bring to bear, and to whom. The tragedy is that people are dying of totally curable and treatable problems – as simple as dehydration from diarrhea – a common problem with infants.

    If Delcy wants to starve to death for Chavismo – more power to her. But it IS a crime against mankind to make the rest of the pueblo do so in her name, while she gets her nails done and badmouths the imperial meddlers. That’s evil incarnate right there.

    • “That’s evil incarnate right there.”

      That’s someone who’s been driven mad by the desire for revenge, she wants to obliterate Venezuela for the death of her criminal father.

  9. “Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Citgo will provide up to $5 million…” that comment right there gives grounds for any lawyer worth his salt to attach any Citgo asset in cases of non-payment by Venezuela. And it is insulting to all Venezuelans who are suffering.

  10. Venezuela used to produce more than two-thirds of its food, and import the rest, but those proportions are now reversed, with imports making up around 70% of what the country eats.

    This is an appropriate time to revisit the lefty lies of our friends at Counterpunch.2013: The Achievements of Hugo Chavez.
    While 90% of the food was imported in 1980, today this is less than 30%.

    FAO Food Balance Sheets- measured in metric tons- can give a rough estimate of the accuracy of these Chavista claims. Granted, it might be more accurate using dollars or Bs as the measure, but for rough estimates, tonnage will suffice.
    For the 2013 article, we don’t know which year or aggregate of years is used for the claim. I will arbitrarily use 2010 data. We sum up FAO data. Quantity is expressed in thousands of metric tons.

    2010 Venezuela FAO, thousands of metric tons.
    Domestic supply quantity 31576
    Import Quantity 8472

    For 2010, this gives imports as 27% of domestic supply – which tells us that Counterpunch made an accurate claim of Chavismo’s food imports being less less than 30%. Pre-Chavismo, not so accurate.

    1980 Venezuela FAO, thousands of metric tons.
    Domestic supply quantity 18254
    Import Quantity 4594

    In 1980, imports were 25% of domestic supply, as measured in gross tonnage,while Counterpunch claimed 90%.
    Note that FAO data checks with Chavista claims of food imports during Chavismo- which implies that FAO data provides a good measure of imports versus food supply. As such, Counterpunch has made a totally false claim regarding food imports before Chavismo.

    FAO has no data beyond 2013, so we can’t use FAO for the current state of food imports.

    http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/FBS

  11. I brought up Jonathan Swift “a Modest Proposal” before. Everyone of the should read. Its What you look forward. He created sarcasm to describe for what Irish people were going though in their “potato famine” during 1700. Then is was by the English – now Mad Ernie. Hunger is just powerful weapon to get people to comply with their lords, I have included this piece from Swift’s work to let you all you something to look forward to.

    “I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.
    I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.
    I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the 120,000 children already computed, 20,000 may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining 100,000 may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.
    I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds”

    The complete work is only 3 pages longs. Its on the internet. You should read it and get used the flavor. (I’m vegen).

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