Saturday, January 10

Venezuela: Food so scarce the socialists have troops guarding stores

Shoppers thronged grocery stores across Caracas today as worsening shortages prompted Venezuela's socialist government to put Venezuela’s food distribution under military protection.

Interior Minister Carmen Melendez said yesterday that security forces would be sent to food stores and distribution centers to protect shoppers.

“Don’t fall into desperation," she said on state television.  "We have the capacity and products for everyone. The stores are full.” 

That statement was a stunning denial of reality:  As Venezuelan shoppers could see for themselves, yesterday in Caracas shelves were mostly bare. Customers struggled and at times fought for items. 

A security guard demanded that shoppers not take photos of empty shelves.

A supermarket in east Caracas on Jan. 9, 2015.
President Nicolas Maduro last week vowed to implement an economic “counter-offensive” to steer the country out of recession, including an overhaul of the foreign exchange system.  Predictably, he didn't provide any details.

Between price controls and fear of a currency devaluation, companies don't know how they'll be able to restock merchandise--a situation that would instantly worsen the already dire situation.

In the past month the price of oil, which accounts for nearly all the country’s export earnings, has plunged.  It's now selling for less than half of last year’s peak, cutting the amount of imported goods the government can buy.

“This is the worst it has ever been -- I’ve seen lines thousands of people long,” said a shopper in east Caracas. “People are so desperate they’re sleeping in the lines.”

Here's how Reuters reported it:

(Reuters) - Lines are swelling at Venezuelan supermarkets, with some shoppers showing up before dawn in search of products, as a holiday slowdown in deliveries sharpened the nation's shortages.

Lines snaked around the block at grocery stores and pharmacies around the country, with consumers in some cases gathering before dawn under the gaze of National Guard troops posted to maintain order.

Business leaders have said the situation will improve soon as distributors return from the often extended Christmas holidays, though many consumers blamed the socialist economic policies of President Nicolas Maduro.

"I don't know what the government is doing. It gets worse every day," said Elizio Velez,  who arrived at 5 a.m. at a Caracas supermarket in search of chicken and toilet paper.

"This is insane, it's like the end of the world," he said, noting that troops had fired shots in the air as scuffles broke out in the line.

I've been writing about the situation in Venezuela for years now because the plight of Venezuelans so perfectly shows two crucial things you need to know:  First is that socialism so predictably leads to shortages of everything.  This happens in large part because to keep the support of their base, socialist leaders set price controls on virtually every necessity.  If the real-world price is higher than their arbitrary ceiling, the socialist government will often pay the difference ("subsidy") to keep from angering their base.

What few low-information people realize is that that subsidy money has to come from somewhere.  So some other sector of the economy must be looted to keep the game going.  But eventually all the cash cows are killed off.

Now what?

Well, says the socialist, if we can't afford to import some commodity, we'll just force domestic businesses to sell it below cost.  Yeah, dat's da ticket.

Let us know how well that works, would ya?  In Venezuela, fertile farmland seized from farm families by the government now sits idle.  Having taken the productive land from those who knew how to produce food, the government finds no one willing to step in.  And those that do lack the knowledge and skill.

Now, if a socialist nation has a foreign benefactor willing to pour in cash and goods--as the former Soviet Union did for Cuba for decades--an illusion of deliriously happy socialist success can be played out for many years.  Again, Cuba is a great example

Or for nations that had developed a strong private sector before going socialist, a new socialist gummint can survive for decades by looting the wealth of that sector.  Of course they don't call it "looting" but "paying one's fair share" of taxes.  Or "spreading the wealth"--a favorite of the emperor.  You've heard a dozen euphemisms for this.

When foreign benefactors tire, and after the socialists have killed all the cash cows, socialist governments know they can still con their people into docility for another year, and then another, by claiming shortages are not due to the moral and economic insanity of socialism but are being caused by a Sinister Foreign Conspiracy.  Both the current and previous presidents of Venezuela have repeatedly claimed shortages are due either to U.S. sabotage or eeeevil businessmen who are hiding goods somewhere.  Same deal for Cuba.

The second lesson Venezuela can teach those with an IQ above room temperature is how astonishingly fast the implosion can happen.  In Venezuela's case things went from prosperous to universal shortages in about 15 years, but other socialist thugs have done it much faster.

Why do I write about Venezuela for American readers?  Because you have a choice:  You can keep watching American Idol (or whatever the current popular TV fad is), keep voting for Dems and RINOs, and reap the faabulous socialist paradise now on display in Cuba, Venezuela, Russia and a dozen other countries; or you can get mad as hell and take this country back.

If you have kids--or if you're a college student and think one day you might--you might want to consider those options carefully.

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