Photos: Miguel Romero retrieved

Omar Prieto gave them 48 hours. In his first speech after taking office as governor of Zulia, in December 2017, he said that shop owners at the Las Pulgas market had to stop reselling basic need products and cash or they’d face the consequences. The audience cheered euphorically. This was one of his most popular promises during the campaign.

But the 48 hours in Prieto’s promise became a little over nine months. Last Wednesday, September 26, Las Pulgas market was intervened in an operation led by Prieto himself, Maracaibo mayor Willy Casanova and National Guard officers. Their quest was to force shop owners to sell food on the cheap side and accept money from the old monetary cone. According to Prieto, “el pueblo asked for this.”

This commercial area, located in downtown Maracaibo for over 30 years, is known for its variety of products: you can find shoes, formal clothing, school supplies, and products such as rice, pasta, flour or oil. Additionally, until a few years ago, it had such good prices that it was considered a market for the poor.

Their quest was to force shop owners to sell food on the cheap side and accept money from the old monetary cone.

However, things changed as shortages and the cash crisis worsened. People could only find products at affordable prices if they paid in cash, because if they paid with credit or debit cards, costs rose up to ten times. This way, it went from being a market for poor people to a market for poor people with cash.

These measures started having a great impact on the local economy, due to the market’s enormous customer flow, to the point that people started parodying its name, calling it Central Bank of Las Pulgas. Many banknotes from the old cone were no longer received all over the city simply because they were no longer received in Las Pulgas. Its last victim was the Bs.F. 100,000 banknote, whose disappearance sparked protests.

By Thursday 27, after the intervention, things spiraled out of control and retailers reported that their stores had been destroyed by authorities who had also stolen their merchandise. But that was not the worst part: they claimed that they have been extorted every day by the very military officers who took part in the operation who, among other things, didn’t accept their Bs.F. 100,000 bills when collecting payment.

“We come here everyday to work for our money, but they force us to sell cheap food and they love it when we pay them. They force us to accept Bs.F. 100,000 banknotes and when we want to use those notes to pay them, they won’t take them either,” cried retailer María Botelho in a somewhat surreal interview for Radio Fe y Alegría.

The stories of military officers extorting citizens who work in this market aren’t new, but public complaints were scarce. This is why Botelho’s testimony had such an impact.

But her strongest phrase was: “I feel bad, ashamed of my people. If people came here to get cash, they could find it; if people wanted products to be sold with cards and cash at the same price, they got it. What are they complaining about now? Why are they so angry?” Botelho said, regarding citizens who were cheering the authorities and mocking the shop owners during the intervention.

The stories of military officers extorting citizens who work in this market aren’t new, but public complaints were scarce.

I’m usually depressed that most people around me don’t understand anything of what’s happening. They’re spotting enemies in all the wrong places.

They say they hate the government and shortages, but they demand that authorities keep producers’ prices in check.

They complain about the terrible mobile connectivity, but when a service provider increases their fee they lose their minds, and ask that authorities revert the prices, even though it’s the cheapest in the world.

They demand lower transport prices, but they complain that they have to wait for hours in a bus stop because there are less units due to the high cost of maintaining them.

They justify tortures against political prisoners because they’ve allegedly negotiated with the government; and every once in a while they repeat the phrase “we’re here because of our own actions” or “this isn’t Maduro’s fault, this is a war of the people against the people.”

How are we supposed to get out of this hole, then, if we keep digging?

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31 COMMENTS

  1. “I feel bad, ashamed of my people. If people came here to get cash, they could find it; if people wanted products to be sold with cards and cash at the same price, they got it. What are they complaining about now? Why are they so angry?” Botelho said, regarding citizens who were cheering the authorities and mocking the shop owners during the intervention.

    We call them Democrats in the United States.

  2. “we’re here because of our own actions” or “this isn’t Maduro’s fault, this is a war of the people against the people.”

    That’s right. Corrupt, uneducated pueblo-people screwing eachother. Just like monkeys or Indian tribes gone wild. En su salsa. Sin leyes. Invariably happens in the 5th world, when the Indian chiefs are also ignorant crooks. Happens when no one bothers to educate an alienated, highly corruptible populace with zero moral values. They breed crap like Hugo Chabestia, the Colombian bus driver and countless chavistoide thugs. Inevitably, the same ignorant and corrupt pueblo-pueblo (where the populist crap came from in the first place), ends up fighting among themselves like savage, salivating hyenas and vultures for the last remains of chaotic dead corpses, such as Maracaibo or Caracas. After a while, new hierarchies are created among the dominating wild beasts with guns, and the weaker, clueless creatures of the urban forests. Animal Farm, Kleptozuelan style.

    • Yawn!
      Again the racist with serious identity crisis

      Here the usual words he gets excited about when writing:
      pueblo 3
      people 3
      indian 2
      ignorant 2
      crap 2
      clueless 1
      animal 1
      chavistoide 1
      monkeys 1
      kleptozuelan 1
      chabestia 1

      • But Kepler. He is so clever. Or wait!!! I confuse clever and boring all the time. The same post over and over. I skip over his nonsense but I bet he managed to shoehorn the Us President into the comment. There is a fun group here that thinks Trump god-like…No like Trump (even a very specific policy)…you nazi, fascist, communist, sexually inadequate, and anti-American. Somehow every post turns into a Trump referendum in the comments section.

        Fact is these are lonely men who obsess on something they harbor deep hatred for. The people living in the myopic mess that is Venezuela. They visit this sight every day with the same tired message of how pathetic the Venezuelan population is, never once pausing to consider how pathetic they are.

        Most of these rubes are discombobulated by the outside world. Leaving the comfortable confines of their own computer room is scary. Travel is out of the question and culture alludes them. Some undoubted collect government checks while harshly chastening the poor Venezuelan who accepts a CLAP bag to survive.

        In real life such people are shunned not so much because they are crass and abrasive to those who don’t drink the same kool aid, but they really are boring. Nobody gives them or their silly “tell it like it is” phony machismo any respect except for echo chambers on the internet.

        Venezuela is perfect for them. It is a dysfunctional nightmare beyond imagination and a perfect place to point at and say anything you want and be as disgusting as you please and still be right.

        Where it gets absurd is when they give the one size fits all diagnoses and then a prescription that is equally definitive (and usually unrealistic). If someone disagrees…you guessed it…they are nazi, fascist, communist, sexually inadequate, and anti-American.

        Such is the life of trolls and pathetic souls.

        Keep posting Kep. You have always been a keen observer with knowledge of history and a world view that offers valuable insight backed up by facts and figures.

        • “I skip over his nonsense but I bet he managed to shoehorn the Us President into the comment.”

          No, actually, that would be, you.

          And as for this comment by Poeta:

          “Corrupt, uneducated pueblo-people screwing each other.”

          I actually agree that there’s a tremendous amount of that going on today here in Venezuela.

          Speaking of flea markets, I drove by ours yesterday. Where there were normally several dozen sellers of products and a couple of hundred people at the Monday market, I saw two sellers and about 10 people standing around.

          • I always appreciate your in county updates Senator. I can’t believe you have no plans to leave but keep hanging in there. We are all pulling for Crystal and hope for the best. I’m glad you have some good people lending some outside support. God speed.

          • Thank you very much KAK. That’s very kind of you. Crystal is in Caracas right now, recovering from yet another emergency surgery, but doing well. She, her parents, and her sibliings will leave for Spain on 11 November. They have no clue when they’ll be able to return.

            There they plan to transplant from her mother to Crystal a kidney, part of her intestines, and a part of her liver as well.

            And yes, the outside support has been tremendous. CC poster John and been a huge help, not only for me and my woman, but for Crystal in particular. He’s a saint.

            Again, thanks for the well-wishes for Crystal. Much appreciated.

        • Kool Aider – “I skip over his nonsense but I bet he managed to shoehorn the Us President into the comment. There is a fun group here that thinks Trump god-like…No like Trump (even a very specific policy)…you nazi, fascist, communist, sexually inadequate, and anti-American.”

          No one had said anything about Trump. Did you mean to turn this “into Trump referendum in the comments section”?

          Yes, Poeta tends to repeat the same thing, every time, but I cannot recall him ever saying anything about Trump.

      • Why don’t you contribute something, Kepler?

        Instead of taking your time to criticize someone who has true, valid things to say? I didn’t hear anything of merit from you contradicting anything Poeta said. Except that you’re “bored” with it.

        As if anyone gives a shit that you’re bored.

        What kind of a shmuck are you? What kind of a Chavista or Nazi?

        Attacking someone who tells the truth over and over over again? You have a problem with that? Who gives a shit? Maybe if more people did that, your Nazi parents and grandparents would have been killed before they had the chance to cause the misery, damage and murder they did.

        We need more of him, and less you, here on CC.

        You think you’re some brilliant intellectual, while most of us clearly can see that you aren’t.

      • Klepleretta, as usual, with absolutely nothing to say. When was your latest lobotomy, RETARD? Get a shrink or shoot yourself. OR, say something about the specific topic at hand, Forest.

    • You sound like you live in the 5th world of the U.S or least belong there. Something North Dakota or a small town in Alabama where they marry their cousins.

  3. Every time leftists “solve” a problem or respond to a “crisis” they always add a layer of control, thus we see their true purpose.

    “If you don’t have a good crisis, create one.” — Hillary Clinton

  4. There is something very wrong if Venezuelans are”cheering the authorities” under the circumstances reported by Mr. Polanco. When I first started reading CC I thought Chavismo was on its last legs but the more I learn here the less I believe my first impression. And the problem is that the longer Chavismo remains entrenched the drain of the middle class out of Venezuela will accelerate leaving only those folks cheering the authorities.

  5. People are not rational , they want to have the cake and eat it too, they want cheap prices but then turn a blind eye to the fact that cheap prices can only happen if the cost of procuring them stay stable , and of course the way our current regime mismanages everything makes it impossible , this is not just people in Venezuela but people all over, the cognitive dissonance flooding public mentality is deafening , at the same time to make matters worse there are market agents that use the existing chaos to try and abuse the system …in the US they lower taxes while the amount of public debt grows exponentially and every day becomes more and more unpayable . Every political model tries to support itself in a conception of the human race , how it instinctively tends to regulate its behaviour and always they are assummed to be rational ………. Human beings CAN be rational , for some periods among certain people in certain environments they can act rationally , but their thinking and instincts can also operate in a very irrational manner ………or turn irrational at the least provocation ……..!!
    The other thing they love is self conceit where it is fed by despising all others opinion in a histrionically belligerent way , we see that in this blog every day , they so enjoy their contemps and derisions , makes their ego ballooon to offend others …..!!

    • “they want cheap prices but then turn a blind eye to the fact that cheap prices can only happen if the cost of procuring them stay stable”

      I suspect it’s not even that complicated. To me, the problem is that most of those who cheer the government shutting down the very businesses that provide them with the goods they need is because they have no clue how free markets work. That’s to say, they’ve never run a business themselves. They just don’t understand it.

    • “Jose was exporting about 950,000 b/d of crude, mainly Merey 16 blend, and importing nearly 60,000 b/d of naphtha used to produce Orinoco diluted crude oil”

      Don’t know where the naphtha is coming from, but I’d guess the US market. If so, if Trump really wanted to kick Maduro in the balls, shut that down and Maduro’s exports would drop to almost zero before he could find another source.

      • I imagine that the naphtha is coming from “in-kind” payments through Citgo. Very likely a wash, though I don’t know what a barrel of naphtha costs. I doubt the Chavists would find a supplier who takes Venezuelan “credit”. Even China/Russia has washed its hands of the mess.

  6. Excuse my ignorance – why is there such a price difference between cash and card sales?

    10000% seems like a lot, even during a hyperinflation regime

    Thanks to anyone who can answer!

    • Ben C, I’ve never seen such a price difference here. Double, even triple and on rare occassions, quadruple, at times for certain products but not those levels.

      The reason for the difference is that certain suppliers accept only cash so the sellers are trying to force the buyers to make a decision if it’s really worth it to pay with a card. If I buy 1000 platanos with cash (because that’s all the seller will accept), and then sell most of the product via wire transfer or card because few want to pay with cash, then how do I replace my merchandise? I can’t. So then I have to buy something else, via trasnfer because that’s where all my capital is….and those sellers have jacked up the price of whatever it is they’re selling.

      It’s a vicious cycle, he result of government mismanagement of the economy, though it’s slowly improving as more cash (new bills) is coming available lately.

  7. Poeta and Kepler are both right, especially if you include a critical fact mentioned in the following debates about IQ:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MJUhDQKJcY
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-Ur71ZnNVk

    It is easy to do the numbers: countries where the average IQ is 83 (e.g. Venezuela) have enough people with low IQ –in Venezuela it is 20% with IQ=70 or less– so as to make socialism **morally compulsory**.

    20% of the Venezuelan population with IQ=70 or less are people who need help from the state to take care of themselves. Every single Venezuelan family is affected by this problem because families are of size 5 on average.

    That is why in Venezuela “People don’t just get it”. They “don’t get it” because they are morally correct in concluding that you can’t marginalize 20% of the population and get away with it.

    Modern economies are getting more competitive, so workers are required to be ever more prepared, which people with IQ=70 or less cannot be. Consecuently, if free democratic societies do not explicitly address this low IQ limit problem (by Guaranteed minimum income) they will devolve into dictatorships that do “solve” it.

    There is a well known statistic in the political science literature about Latin America, to the effect that a dictatorship becomes self-perpetuating when it supported by the army plus just 30% of the population. As regards Venezuela, one could say that of that 30%, 20% is guaranteed support if not more (given that nearly all families are affected as noted above). Meaning that the survival of a free democratic regime in Venezuela ultimately depends on a margin of only 10%. This is a margin that is which is easily captured, with or without electoral fraud.

    Wake up and smell the coffee. This conondrum has nothing to do with Venezuelan having no moral values, but rather the opposite. We are blind, and run the risk of having no moral values ourselves. Jordan Peterson would probably disagree 100% percent with the conclusion I draw from his discussions. But what other solution is there?

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