Photo: PBS retrieved

My last visit to Caracas took place in September 2016 and it was a “walk in the park” compared to my recent two-week stay: a 127% inflation rate was beginning to take a toll on the purchasing power of Venezuelans (today’s inflation rate is 64,000%), the minimum monthly wage was $7.36 (today’s minimum monthly wage is $0.56), the USD to Bs.F. black-market exchange rate was Bs.F. 1,022 per dollar (today the exchange rate in Bs.F. 9,000,000 per dollar), and street protests were warming up in Eastern Caracas as a prelude to 2017’s three month massive street protests where more than 163 people were shot and killed by the National Guard and the National Police.

The earth shook, Maduro broke the economy (once again), the electric crisis deepened, and Venezuelans’ daily life got worse by the minute.

I decided to summarize my shocking experience because a lot happened in my brief trip to Venezuela: the earth shook, Maduro broke the economy (once again), the electric crisis deepened, and Venezuelans’ daily life got worse by the minute. But, let’s start at the beginning:

My landing

I landed at Simon Bolivar International Airport the third week of August. During the 1980s, this airport was the gateway to Latin America. During those golden years, Jumbo jets, the Concord of Air France and British Airways were a common sight. The day of my arrival though, most jetways were empty.

Hot air slapped my face as I disembarked the plane. The airport’s air conditioning wasn’t working and the Caribbean sun was doing its job on the big glass windows of the corridor. This was my first interaction with Venezuela’s electricity crisis.

Buying a bottle of “Ron Pampero Aniversario”

When I saw that the duty-free shop had an excellent inventory of great Venezuelan rums, I decided to buy a bottle of my favorite: “Ron Pampero Aniversario”. The price of one bottle of rum that day was Bs. 75.000.000 ($15 at the black-market exchange rate then in effect). I flipped my wallet open, handed the store clerk my Black Banco Provincial Visa card (two years earlier with enough credit to buy a cheap motorcycle on the spot) and 30 seconds later the electronic point of sale machine greeted me with this note “your purchase exceeds the credit limit of your card”. Well, I had to use that card to pay 25 million bolivars, another Visa card to pay another 25 million bolivars, (using in both cases 100% of my credit limit), plus I had to throw in the basket five dollars in cash to cover the full price of the bottle. I was shocked to learn that the entire credit limit of my cards wasn’t enough to buy one bottle of rum.

I was shocked to learn that the entire credit limit of my cards wasn’t enough to buy one bottle of rum.

This experience allowed me to learn that paying for goods and services in Venezuela the next two weeks wasn’t going to be something trivial. Also, my worries were spiced-up because I had been alerted that there was no cash available on the streets since a crazy monetary reconversion was around the corner.

In less than ten days the price of the bottle of rum increased from 75 million bolivars to Bs.185 million. This is nothing compared to what Venezuelans will experience in hyperinflation by year’s end.

From Maiquetía to Caracas

I grabbed my luggage at the conveyor belt, went pass immigration baggage control and was greeted outside by a pre-hired private transportation service. A chauffeur and an armed bodyguard escorted me to our car. While on transit the bodyguard provided me with security tips for the next two weeks: no early morning street 10k runs, no driving after 8:30 p.m., consider restaurants only for lunch and not for dinner, etc. I followed all his instructions with precision.

Economic measures make matters worse

The night of my arrival Maduro announced new economic measures to fight hyperinflation. Although the government blames the international blockade, the reality is that inflation in Venezuela is the direct result of government mismanagement, corruption and printing inorganic currency.

In a nutshell: Maduro eliminated five zeros from the bolívar fuerte and created the bolívar soberano; he increased the minimum wage 35x, effective September 1; pdecided that a fraud cryptocurrency called petro was a new account currency; increased the Value Added Tax rate; implemented advance income tax payments calculated by applying a % to gross sales in an environment where most companies are reporting huge operating losses; froze the maximum prices of 50+ products; eliminated the exchange control, increasing the official exchange rate 24x from Bs. 248,832 per dollar to Bs. 6,000,000 per dollar; paving the way for a perfect economic storm that will devastate Venezuelans by the end of the year.

Time to buy groceries for my two-week stay

Saturday morning I decided to swing by the supermarket to buy groceries. I thought it was going to be a quick errand, but it turned out to be an unforgettable four-hour shopping experience. Panicked citizens were buying anything they could.

I thought it was going to be a quick errand, but it turned out to be an unforgettable four-hour shopping experience.

I drove to the nearest supermarket and had to wait 20 minutes to enter the parking lot since there were no empty spots available to park my car. Then, I waited another 15 minutes for someone to free a cart. The store was full of people and I perceived a lot of tension in the air since there were long queues to pay in each corridor.

I was lucky to find most of the items I was looking for, but the selection was limited and impossible to choose between brands. In reaction to Maduro´s announcements, I realized I had to be ready to pay a steep price for everything. I was also shocked to see the many, many empty shelves, a sight I had seen in the news but not live.

When I finished shopping I joined the queue. While I was waiting, I overheard people complaining about the economic reforms, the shortage, insufficient cash flow, the state of their business and the imminent bankruptcy many would have to face.

Eventually, I reached the cashier and it was finally my turn to pay. My only option to pay was my debit card. The total amount of my purchase was Bs. 250.000.000; or $41 at the new official exchange rate of Bs. 6,000,000 per dollar; or the equivalent of 1004 minimum wages. Yes, a Venezuelan worker making minimum wage would have to work 1004 months to have enough bolivars to pay for the groceries I bought that day, for just two people and the next two weeks.

Even though I had sufficient funds available in my bank account, the total amount could not be charged to my debit card. At the point of sale, I learned that there was a maximum limit per transaction of Bs. 40.000.000, therefore, the clerk had to break the total amount in transactions of Bs. 40.000.000 each until the total amount was paid. Only four transactions were processed before my bank blocked my debit card.

Three hours in, my patience was running short. I asked to speak with the store manager and asked to pay from home by wire transfer. She answered “no,” and explained that if I couldn’t pay the full amount with my debit card, I couldn’t take the food home with me. Eventually, I was able to convince the store manager to allow me to use her office computer to process the wire transfer, as she needed printed confirmation. This process took another hour.

Only four transactions were processed before my bank blocked my debit card.

Earthquake!

Monday arrived and it was time to meet with my employees. I spent the whole day in my office, and when our meeting was about to end, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake shook our office building for more than a minute.

We were located at the PH of the building and the rocking was very strong. Keeping a calm spirit we decided to run to the rooftop of the building and waited for the shaking to stop. In a matter of minutes, all the streets were full of people and the street traffic got out of control.

I can only hope

The chaos I saw in the streets after the earthquake was very similar to the mess I saw in Venezuela during the two weeks I spent in my beautiful but destroyed country.

Nonetheless, the chaos in the streets caused by the earthquake slowly but surely disappeared. My frustration is not knowing when the chaos induced by a government of criminals will go away.

It’s time to put Simón Bolívar’s quotes on the spotlight. In particular this one: “When tyranny becomes the law of the land, rebellion is a right.”

 

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37 COMMENTS

  1. well as we like to say here after any close call: at least you didn’t get killed!

    yeah things are degrading so quickly here now if you blink it you will miss it. Beer from the beer truck goes up 10 sob per case per week its now over 700 Sob. i always follow beer because its one of the few steady indicators.

    • I could not finish watching that. Reminds me of what has happened in so much of Mexico. At least in Baltimore they just kill you without kidnapping you first.

  2. Adding to Mr. Imery’s experience.

    My in-laws returned to Caracas after 6 months in Atlanta to look after their stuff. They landed a couple of weeks ago. They were horrified by the difficulty of the situation, not only for them but for all of their acquaintances. The fear is overwhelming, they cannot sleep, they are voluntary shut-ins.

    They are practicing MDs and their earnings are insufficient to cover food and utilities! Had they no dollars they would go hungry as even some people that live in stately quintas del Cafetal.

  3. “It’s time to put Simón Bolívar’s quotes on the spotlight. In particular this one: “When tyranny becomes the law of the land, rebellion is a right.”

    Bolivar was a smart, highly educated SIFRINO, burgues, Elite. Aristocrat. Rich. Smart. Highly educated.

    Unlike “el pueblo.” El pueblo is dumb, uneducated, corrupt. Crap. Not all, but most.

    That’s how beautiful country like Venezuela, vast, blessed with natural resources and great weather ends up being one of the worst shitholes on Planet Earth. Because it created Chavez and Maduro and Cabello and Delcy. Because el pueblo is Maduro Cabello Tarek and Delcy: Except even dumber and even less educated. But almost as corrupt, almost as evil sometimes. Yes, El Pueblo. Including about 1300 “generals” and the entire ‘armed forces”. Including almost 5 MILLION public employees on Chavista payroll most of them leeches and crooks. Culpable, complicit. That’s Kleptozuela.

    Bolivar knew you had to educate and correct the populace. Except no one did, no previous MUDcrap ‘government” educated our corrupt INDIOS, yes. Corrupt Indios. Not all, but most of them.

    That’s why Bolivar’s beautiful dream of Venezuela died long ago. Because el pueblo sucks and no one did anything to make it better.

    Keep blaming “Chavismo” or whatever. Instead of blaming who created Chavismo and maintains it to this day.

    El “pueblo”. Yes. That’s who. And that’s where the real problems come from.

    Bolivar would surely agree. Smart sifrino y burguesito capitalista that he was, much like yours truly.

    What would Bolivar do if he was alive? Probably endorese another Marcos Perez Jimenez to fix that hell hole that Klepto-Narco-Cuibazuela is today. Because of its “pueblo”. Millions of lamentable “pueblo”. Yes, that’s why. No es la flecha, es el indio.

    • El pueblo descended from Bolivar’s slaves. And from where did el pueblo’s culture descend? From an unholy fusion of the worst aspects of Spanish and native cultures.

  4. And Kleptozuela will remain a shithole as bad as the worst African nations and worse than Haiti or Nicaragua UNTIL its pueblo is better educated, and sent to jail when it commits crimes. Until they are put to WORK. A mano dura. There’s no MUD that can fix that mess. No Capriles or even MCM that can save that hellhole from its own lousy people. Yes, its lamentable Pueblo. Millions of them. Thousands of top crooks and thieves, plus millions of complicit indians, leeches, with zero professional skills to produce anything.

    So dream on. That after “Chavismo” falls, the MUD crap people will fix anything. They won’t, until they start educating el pueblo and sending them to freaking jail when they misbehave.

    Forcing them to get real education and real working skills. That’s how you fex Klepto-Narco Cubazuela or any other shithole in the planet.

  5. “Two weeks navigating the Tyranny”.

    Close enough. Good word, Tyranny. Way more accurate than “el gobielno”. Or “las autoridades” which even writers here at CC keep misusing.

    But to be more precise it’s simply a Criminal, Genocidal Tropical Kleptocracy of sorts. CGTK, for short. Evil indians and crooks, scared to death to go to jail for their crimes, hanging on to power. Not just the top Chavistas that people talk about. No. Thousands of them. From the military down to civilians. Ladrones.
    Thieves, above all. That’s what the “Tyranny” is. That’s what Klepto Cubazuela is today. That’s what Chavismo is: Kleptozuelan pueblo people out of control. Criminals that should be in jail. Not just thousands, Millions among the ones still left in the country. Because most of the honest, educated, hard-working ones got the hell outta there long ago, and keep leaving.

    Heck, even the guilty, complicit, former ‘chavistas’ are leaving now. Only because there’s not much more to STEAL. So even they, pueblo people, former leeches and crooks, finally got hungry and desperate. No more GUISOS for them. (Not all, but many, yes, El Pueblo, at all levels of that society: former enchufados, former empleados publicos, sindicalistas, policias, guardias, agentes aduanales, ladrones, everywhere- en su mayoria.

    That’s also who’s leaving for Peru or Chile or Colombia or Miami or Spain. Not just victims and angelitos, mind you. Not most of them. Many were enchufados and former Chavistoide pueblo people who votes repeatedly, yes, even for Maduro. Millions of them. The same ones who still adore and venerate the Chabestia himself. That’s who. El pueblo, many of them, still adore Chavez. To this day. That’s how smart and wise they are. And corrupt, when they could be. Most of them.

    Address that problem, and then Kleptozuela might start getting better one day, decades from now. Depends if a good dictator handles that tropical mess, as Pinochet did with Chile, or not. Since that’s highly unlikely these days, and since the USA or “international community” will probably not intervene militarily (because there are too many shitholes almost as bad as Kleptozuela in the world, and they have their own problems and politics in Europe or Australia or Japan or Canada or the USA)

    So start praying for some effective drones, or some generals with balls to blow something up. Force. Or get used to Nicaragua/Cuba/Haiti/Africa or worse right in Kleptozuela for decades more to come. And start saving abroad, working en el exilio, to send more food and remesas year after year. Cuban style. Unless some inside people have the cojones to act, send some snipers or something to deal with a few top chavistas. But they are wossies and corrupt. All of them, it seems.

  6. Marcel should consider himself lucky that during his stay here he wasn’t also in need of removing his pension money from the bank. My wife told me that yesterday in both Punta de Mata and Maturin she saw lines that were many blocks long of old timers wanting to withdraw funds from the government-owned banks. Some were sitting in plastic chairs they’d brought along for the wait, others had rolled up mattresses they’d apparently used for an overnight extravaganza.

  7. Not one, not two but three pontifications be mierda from PC this early morning… I could almost become IRAte. Bueh.. clearly not from Texas.

  8. One thing hasn’t changed for Marcel–the Simon Bolivar International is still the gateway to South America–except it isn’t an airport on the coast, but a bridge on the border to Cucuta for mostly foot traffic….

  9. Interesting to watch developments in Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro “the Tropical Trump” has been gaining steam recently as many Brazilians are fed up with socialismo del siglo xxi. I saw an interview with the vice presidential candidate ridding on the Bolsonaro ticket, and he said he was in favor of an international intervention (after outlining the history of the Foro de Sau Paulo and the golpista Chavez). Bolsonaro was also sympathetic to the right wing “dictatorships” of Brazil that actually brought law, order and progress and how anything the left touches will be destroyed. Hopefully another Marcos Perez Jimenez will be elected in Brazil. That would really turn up the heat on the Chavistas.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/support-for-wounded-candidate-jumps-in-brazil-presidential-poll-1536593541

    BTW he was recently stabbed by some left wing conspiracy theorist (read Norberto Ceresole (one of Chavez’s advisors)) who is a fan of Maduro and Socialismo del Siglo xxi.

  10. Hours and hours waiting in line, doing transactions (and using public transportation per a recent report here). Soon it will be easier to just go back to the jungle and grow your own food — the rise of tribalism.

  11. Readers and backers of Caracas Chronicles, despite the difrences in opinion the time has come to boycott this website and remove the editors livelyhood due to his collaboration with Chavismo/Socialism. We had already seen his uncritical support for Socialisim in Colombia in the elections. Why do I say this you ask, he stupidly hanged all by himself with this column.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/08/21/no-venezuela-doesnt-prove-that-socialism-will-bring-about-a-zombie-apocalypse/?utm_term=.95883969a78c

    It might be necesary that a future Venezuelan court bring charges for againts for Collaboration With human rights violators.

    • Toro promised “communism with a human face.” We got the communism; where’s the human face? It was killed along with the 200,000,000 proletariats for the glory of the revolution.

      • I am super tolerant to diffrent opinions but I would like to Venzeula to have at least better than a 1% chance of recovering and not turning into somalia.

        Why becuase I live in Colombia and the consequences of having Venezuela collpase into Somalia 2.0 and having to fund a massive takeover of Zulia and Tachira and covert them to departments is horrible as rich as Colombia might get.

        I would like to avoid it and any litte thing I can do is a small contribiution.

        • Thanks Ricky G.

          Man, Quico was once a closet socialist. Now he is fully out of the closet and should be donning a red beret.

          In the article he blames this all on just a lack of democracy. Not once does he try to explain the Foro de Sao Paulo. Nor does he talk about how these red baboons, if given the chance and political opportunity, will enact the same economic package: expropriation of private industries/properties, expansion of public sector into a myriad of worthless bureaucracies maintained by incompetent fools, currency and exchange controls, etc, etc, etc. We all know this is socialism in a nutshell (and have learned the hard way in Venezuela), not this kinder gentler “democratic socialism” that mellennials can not even explain what it actually is. Seriously try to get a mellinnial to explain to you what democratic socialism actually is. They cant!!! Just more lipstick on a very fat old pig donning a red beret and puffing on a Cuban cigar.

    • Toro is the poster child for a spoiled brat who wants everyone to feel sorry that socialism just wasn’t done “the right way” this time in VZ.

      Peru is not exactly the benchmark for “good socialism” either. Notice how he ignores facts like access to capital and ability to attract foreign investments? Under the previous regime, you had companies threatening to leave if they were treated as the enemy. Hell, even liberal Starbucks figured that out.

      How about voter intimidation and media control? Peru was not exactly “healthy” with the previous Cuban puppet. I’ll take Chile over Peru, earthquakes and all. At least now, Peru has some stable growth with stronger regional markets than previously.

      Canada’s finest.

  12. Now what does “socialism” really mean?

    Populism? Communism? Fascism? What does “democracy” really mean? Or Kleptocracy?

    People in these blogs use words, and they don’t even have a clue about what they talk about. Much less our beloved “pueblo” people.

    Socialism.. I got your “socialism” right here inside my capitalist pair of torn blue jeans. They cost 20$ and I give them away every 5 years to the Vietnam Veterans, to be a “socialist”. Do you give your old jeans away for charity, do you recycle? Now that’s “socialism” are what the hell does the word mean?

    Communism. Revolusion Bolibanana. Same crap. Kleptozuelans talk about it every day. And yet, they have ZERO CLUE as to what such words mean, and much less their historical relevance or significance. ZERO clue. Ignorance. Using words because kleptozuelan indians use words they don’t even know about.

    They should just stick to sounds and screams in their concrete jungles in Petare or Guatire. Instead of using words they don’t even begin to comprehend.

  13. Really derogatory Poeta, can’t straight up scream hate messages all the time. In Canada we would shun our buddies who were racist, you could bully with being fat, of being a nerd, but the message was we are a cultural mosaic and tolerance WILL prevail.

  14. Never met Toro, but I know the type.

    Left wing elitists are of the firm belief that the only thing wrong with Marxism is implementation. It works… it just hasn’t been done right…. YET. As for a single instance of success, and they might point to Norway, or Denmark. Though they have many hallmarks of Socialism, it only exists in the shadow of Capitalism. Because Capitalism is what pays the bills.

    Marxists are the ultimate hypocrites.

  15. It is really so annoying this Poeta bloke writes here so often.

    The information he provides is equal to zero:

    he just repeats ad nauseam “pueblo”, “pueblo”, “pueblo”, “Kleptozuela”
    and writes incredibly racist stuff, always showing his hatred towards black people, towards Indians, etc

    What is he? A son of Spaniards/Italians with serious identity issues? An average mixed Venezuela with equally identity problems? In any case, his ranting is tiring. He is just a Chavista from the other side.

  16. Que banda de pendejos. You only need USD 300/month to live the great life in Caracas (assuming you already own your housing). So what are you complaining about that wasn’t part of Venezuela 40 years ago? You’re either blind or too young to know. Tontos to the n power. I certainly didn’t learn anything by reading this blog full of stupidity.

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