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Venezuela is starving its people

PETER O’CONNOR
Staff Columnist
oconnor@lbknews.com

“The Maduro regime is using its control of food to stamp out political protests.” (By Mary Anastasia O’Grady, The Wall Street Journal,  Monday, November 20, 2017)

“Venezuelan shortages of everything are widely acknowledged.  But  there is less recognition that strongman Nicola’s Maduro is using control  of food to stamp out opposition.  Hyperinflation has shriveled household budgets and the government has taken over food production and distribution.  Most damning is evidence that access to government rations has become conditional on Maduro’s good favor.

The hardship is killing and deforming children.  But Cuba, which runs the Maduro intelligence apparatus, also endorses it.  Holding power trumps all.

Maduro took the helm in Venezuela after the March 2013 death of Hugo Cha’vez.

Over 14 years Cha’vez had destroyed property rights and civil liberties and greased the monetary printing press.  But $100 per barrel covered his multitude of sins.

Now the global crude price has been cut in half and the Cha’vez  mess is exposed.  The central bank’s net hard-currency cash reserves have fallen below $1 billion.  Last week Miraflores Palace missed deadlines for interest payments on two sovereign debt issues and one bond issued by the national oil company PdVSA.  Triple-digit inflation is spiraling.

Outside the country many are asking why the popular rebellion, which was significant in July, has gone quiet.  The answer may be in the government’s skillful use of hunger as much as imprisonment to quash dissent.”

Ms. O’Grady continues:  “Last week the newspaper El Nacional reported on a ‘food emergency forum’ held by Amnesty Iinternational in Caracas.

One participant was Maritza Landaeta, Coordinator of the Caracas-based nonprofit Bengoa which has worked to aid Venezuelans in food  and nutritional needs since 2000. In describing the crisis , Ms. Landaeta shared the grim reality facing many mothers:  ‘They say their children cry all day and they can only give them water.  They are dying”

Wow, imagine this in our hemisphere

“Ms. Landaeta said some communities are experiencing undeniable ‘famine’ and that in some parts of the country 50% of the children have left school because of hunger.  According to the website El Estimulo Ms. Landaeta also reported that household surveys in the Baruta neighborhood of Caracas found that since the beginning of 2016 residents have lost, on average, more than 30 pounds.  In September El Nacional reported that a study in 32 parishes in the states of Vargas, Mirandea and Zulia by the Catholic aid organization Caritas Venezuela found that 14.5% of child.ren under five are suffering either from moderate or severe malnutrition.  This is no accident.

Inflation has stripped Venezuelans of purchasing power.  The minimum monthly salary is now 456,507 bolivars, which on November 15 was equal to about $8,  A year ago the monthly minimum was 90,812 bolivars or about $21.  Obviously imported food is unaffordable for most Venezuelan families.”

More from O’Grady:  “The dictatorship increasingly controls what food there is.  Dollars from oil exports go only to the state, which uses them to import. And the output  It also confiscates, at will, farm production and the output of agricultural processors.  It plans to use the capital  freed up by a restructuring of $3 billion in debt held by Moscow to buy Russian wheat.  The government  is forcing the use of debit and credit

cards by withholding cash.  This allows Committees it to monitor all commerce.

Government rations are crucial.  Food supplied by the military-run Local Committee for Supply and Production – known by its Spanish initials  CLAP – is not enough to live on.  But it’s a subsidy that makes a big difference to families.

To receive the rations, Venezuelans must carry the Carnet de la Patria, a government issued license only available to those approved by the regime.”

As the same Ms. Landaeta bravely  explained, “Food is controlled and votes are bought, food is used as a political weapon and is at the center of the hurricane.”

What do we do about this situation?

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