In Venezuela, "Savage Suffering" Takes Hold Amid Frightening "Food Emergency"

Tyler Durden's picture

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been working on some “measures.”

“Now that the economic emergency decree has validity, in the next few days I will activate a series of measures I had been working on,” he said Thursday, in a televised statement meant to address a “food emergency” declared by Congress.

The “validity” Maduro references comes from a high court ruling that gives the President expanded powers to tackle a deepening economic crisis that’s left hospitals without medicine and grocery stores bereft of food.

“The controversial move by the Supreme Court, which critics say is packed with supporters of Mr Maduro’s socialist government, potentially sets the scene for a bitter institutional crisis amid claims that the national assembly is being undermined,” FT notes, underscoring the extent to which opposition lawmakers - who in December won 99 of 167 seats that were up for grabs in what amounted to the worst defeat in history for Hugo Chavez’s leftist movement - feel as though last year’s election victory may have been a ruse designed to lend legitimacy to a system that is, and likely always will be, deeply undemocratic.

“This is a tyranny, which has been very successful in disguising as a democracy, and has even allowed itself to lose an election,” Moisés Naím, a former Venezuelan minister and fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said.

Thanks to the Supreme Court decision, Maduro doesn’t need the assembly’s permission to intervene further in business, to allocate funds for imports, and to introduce new capital controls. The opposition is furious and says it will speed up efforts to usurp Maduro once and for all. "In the next few days we will have to present a concrete proposal for the departure of that national disgrace that is the government," opposition leader Henry Ramos told reporters on Friday.

"The Supreme Court of Justice has spoken, its word is holy and must be respected by all parts of society and all institutions," Maduro declared.

With inflation set to soar to over 700% this year, Venezuelans are struggling to persist in the world’s worst performing economy. “I hoped to buy toilet paper, rice, pasta,” 74-year-old Rosalba Castellano, told WSJ. “But you can’t find them.”

The government is putting us through savage suffering,” she laments.

Of course Maduro blames this “savage suffering” on evil capitalists and the US, which he says is waging an economic war on the country.

In reality, mismanagement on an absurd scale including a rash of nationalizations, out of control spending, and price controls have shrunk the private sector and plunged the economy into outright chaos.

“It goes beyond the crime and economic deterioration,” Leonardo Briceno who spoke to WSJ and runs a Caracas public-relations company said. “It’s imagining a scenario where my daughter needs a medication and we can’t find it. That scares me the most.”

(Venezuelans wait in line to buy food in Caracas)

“The crisis is especially acute in what was once a centerpiece for the socialist country, its health-care system,” WSJ goes on to note. “The country’s leading trade group for drugstores says 90% of medicines are scarce,” and preventable deaths are on the rise. Here’s more:

On a recent day at the University Hospital of Maracaibo, in Venezuela’s second-largest city, patients lay on bare beds in rooms with dirty floors. There was no running water, medicine, cleaning supplies or food. Feces floated in the toilets. Medical staffers there said gang members roam the halls, forcing underpaid and harassed doctors to lock themselves in the offices to avoid assaults.


Venezuela used to export rice, coffee and meat. It now imports all three. It even imports its own bank notes, ordered from European firms and flown in on 747 jets.


The number of private companies in the country shrank by 20% between 2006 and 2014, according to Datanalisis. Multinationals such as Clorox Co. have simply left. Others including Ford Motor Co. and Oreo-maker Mondelez have written down the value of their local businesses to zero.


The crisis is felt not just in Venezuela’s teeming cities but in places like Toas, a tiny island of palm trees and crystalline waters in far western Venezuela, home to just 8,000 people.


Last December, thieves stole 15 miles of underwater power cable connecting the island to the mainland. The theft severed the island’s telephone connections and idled its water pumps.


Fisherman Genebraldo Chacin said his children haven’t bathed or gone to school since then, and they have been eating only one meal a day. His neighbors say the island is close to starvation.


Our food rots without electricity, and it’s sad because it’s so difficult to find food here,” said Mr. Chacin’s neighbor, Sasha Almarza. “When we are able to find any in the store, we eat it all the same day.”

And so on.

As we've documented extensively, Venezuela is staring down an imminent default, despite the fact that the country does in fact try to service its debt. As Barclays noted last month, the country will need to spend 90% of its oil revenue on debt payments assuming $32 crude. Obviously, that's not a tenable proposition. 

(note that the headline inflation figure in the right pane is horribly understated)

Thanks to rising imports (as mentioned above) and falling oil sales, the CA deficit has worsened, forcing Caracas to liquidate assets to fund a budget deficit that's projected to hover near 20% of GDP for the foreseeable future.

"Such high inflation has a strong detrimental effect not only on real salaries, but also on income distribution, as the lowest income part of the population tends to have fewer alternatives to protect against inflation," Barclays warns. "This could increase social and political risks, making the current equilibrium increasingly unstable."

Of course there is no "current equilibrium." The opposition was already bound and determined to oust Maduro within six months and now, following the Supreme Court decision to grant him 60 days of emergency economic powers, Ramos says the timeframe for drawing up plans for the President's exit is now "days." Meanwhile, the public may have been unwilling to stage an outright rebellion with inflation at 200%, but at 720% it's difficult to see how things won't careen into outright social upheaval in the not so distant future. Especially once the country defaults and the public comes to realize just how wasteful the government is with what should be a vast store of national oil wealth.

As for what "measures" Maduro is considering to counter the officially declared "food emergency," we'll have to wait and see, but WSJ did give us a hint: 

"In response to growing food shortages, Mr. Maduro last month created a Ministry for Urban Farming. He noted that he has 50 chickens in his own home." 

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Looney's picture

I propose renaming the Fed’s Marriner S. Eccles Building into… the Hugo Chavez Building.  ;-)


BaBaBouy's picture

AND To Top It Off... All The CB GOLD Has Vanished...

Some Politicos' getting Rich In That Fuckup Country.

You Can't Eat GOLD, But When The GOLD Disappears You Can't Eat!!!

tc06rtw's picture

 …  Now if they would print their banknotes on Charmin, they could kill two turds with one stone.

Soul Glow's picture

Maduro really blends into the crowd with that jumpsuit.  Makes me miss the 80's.

Thom_333's picture

Yeah! His speeches makes just as much sense as the Sugarhill Gang (1979) Rapper´s Delite or in case of Nicolás Socialist´s Delite.

Durrmockracy's picture

Very instructive... if any family, extended family demands I "auction off" my gold when S hits the F I'm just going into the woods with it!

Pairadimes's picture

I'm waiting for Bernie Sanders to show up at a debate wearing a red beret.

Bendromeda Strain's picture

I'm waiting for the weekend Progtard Tyler© to whip out an essay from the CEPR to tell us why Maduro getting more power is just what Venezuela needs to drag Chavez' corpse across the finish line. Leftist cheerleaders are much too quite these days.

/what time is shift change?

BarkingCat's picture

They are "much too quite" what?

COSMOS's picture

The only reason they are suffering is because the USA is waging economic warfare via oil prices and other subversive measures in Venezuela.

Farqued Up's picture

Yeah, just as Castro always claimed, communism is the superior system it's just that the mean ole capitalists have CAUSED their downfall. If they are starving it's their fault, anyone can toss seeds out on the ground and fruits and vegetables will grow. They have bountiful rivers and streams and the Gulf of Paria. Trinidad is only 7 miles off their shore and there is no food shortage there.

Not My Real Name's picture

It is amazing how some people, despite all the evidence to the contrary, continue to make excuses for the failures of socialism. Forward!

Ward cleaver's picture

You forgot the sarc tag; Is that you Bernie?

pjs's picture

There we go! The inevitable commenter who can't distinguish between left policies and corruption/incompetence.

tunnelvizn's picture

And the difference is in the timetable.  Leftist policies always end at the same location as the corrupt.

Save_America1st's picture

and after repatriating its gold from London, Venezuela had 361 tonnes of gold at the end of 2014.  Doesn't seem like a coincidence that since then, and after Chavez died, Venezuela has been plunged into even worse poverty and has therefore had to sell nearly all of its gold up to this point back to London (Goldman Sachs most likely) to pay off the massive debt.

The banksters will get the gold from you one way or another.  And I'm sure Maduro has quite a stash of his own somewhere...he certainly isn't going to suffer the same fate of the rest of the Venezuelan people. 

Hopefully they just kill his ass sometime soon and move on to rebuilding again.

Interesting how gold isn't considered or accepted as real money by the banksters for us to use day to day...but when you owe them debt they'll take every bit of gold you've got as payment for their fake fiat shit paper. 

ShrNfr's picture

Sorry, remember the notices on the toilets in South Africa that said "No Zim Notes"?

Thom_333's picture

The smell of free shit in the morning

A Nanny Moose's picture



Dear Capitalist Pigs,

At least we aren't paying corporations for our toilet paper, and working as their wage slaves.


Latino Bolsheviks

Thom_333's picture

Viva Commendante por Eterno, Chavez! Viva el socialismo!

And long live the ordinary Venezuelan idiots who democratically elected him and then that obrero Maduro.

You got what you wanted!


Money Counterfeiter's picture

We elected communist parasite in the USA.

onewayticket2's picture

Feel the Bern....


- Hugo Sanders

A Nanny Moose's picture

But the USSA is eggzeptionale

Excursionist's picture

The disappointing thing is that if you could go 100 or 1,000 years into the future, then you'd encounter some other country / society undergoing the same socialism-induced death throws as Venezuela.

Apparently sloth and fear are endemic to the human condition, and there will always be someone pandering to both to gain control over gullible, lazy, fearful lemmings.

BadLibertarian's picture

I'm skeptical of that because the thing about history is - every time it repeats, the weapons get better. So in 100 years what I'd expect you to find is either a civilization of humans who finally got their shit together, or a lot of radioactive slag.

Thom_333's picture that you...?

blabam's picture

They are feeling the Bern.....  in their empty tummies. 

doctor10's picture

The 21st Century Cuba?


I think it is disgracefully ignorant for the majority of Zerohedge readers to cheer this anti-socialist propaganda when anyone with a brain cell will know that the USA BANK BAILOUTS IN 2008 WERE THE LARGEST EXAMPLE OF SOCIALISM IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND!!! 

But let the Zerohedge zionist morons keep cheering SOME ordinary Venezuelans are hungry...IGNORING THE MILLIONS OF US CITIZENS ON FOOD STAMPS IN THE USA??? !! EH?? Zeros???




P.S. (That is all ignoring the likely fabricated nature of this story anyway) FORWARD!!

shovelhead's picture

I know how you feel, bro.

Just a little more central planning by the bus driver in chief should get things sorted out in a jif.

These Dumb Hedgers don't appreciate how difficult managing the means of production are once you steal the businesses away from those ignorant and evil capitalists who actually know how to make toilet paper, food and stuff.

Maybe Ralph will put his buddy Norton in charge.

Viva La Revolution.

bsdetector's picture

To The Solution: I don't agree with your comment but the first paragraph is spot on. Why would anyone object to Bernie's policies when the wealthy have enjoyed the fruits of socialism without the risk of capitalism?


Well thank you for a reasonable response. I am sorry I get worked up at all these Randian supermen on Zerohedge...At least some people have some perspective.

I have never claimed that socialism is the solution...or communism...they have clearly failed and as uncomfortable as it is for me to admit...some kind of dog eat dog capitalism has certainly a history of some success on its side. However, capitalism has never really existed other than on paper and all countries in history have had a mixed economy to a certain extent.

I personally believe the issuing of debt free currency would alleviate many of the problems we currently see it a panacea..of course not. But it is mathematically impossible to sustain infinite debt growth on a finite planet without massive global resets...unfortunately instead of peaceful mass debt write offs humans always tend to go for the war option. I personally believe there must be a way to create appropriate levels of debt free money either via democratic vote or population algorithm to avoid such disasters...if that is really too much to ask then at least have real capitalism and enforce it...e.g. let your banks and rich rentiers actually take their losses...but I guess it is all wishful thinking and the raving zombie morons are ushering us all into a nuclear war :( All the best. At least Zerohedge hasn't banned me again. Respect to the editors for allowing at least a dissenting voice in the wilderness.

Bendromeda Strain's picture

I have never claimed that socialism is the solution...or communism...they have clearly failed and as uncomfortable as it is for me to admit

Nowhere in history has liberty ever caused a nation to lose its mind and soul like collectivism has. Let us recap just a sampling - Jacobins / Bolsheviks / Great Leap / Khmer Rouge, in every instance this Progress© required people to be dragged from their homes because of thought crimes real and imagined. It is a disease that promotes paranoia, jealousy and murder. I fully expect that to break out in Venezuela if Maduro isn't overthrown.

People can put a happy face on it and "feel the Bern", but some of us aren't fooled. Not now, not ever. The proper spelling is BURN, and so shall it ever be.

PS - debt free currency isn't exactly a dissenting voice around here. The reason hard money is advocated is because it constrains human nature.

Not My Real Name's picture

"dog eat dog capitalism has certainly a history of some success on its side."

"Some" success? Wow ... Tough crowd.

bloofer's picture

Calling the free exchange of goods and services "dog eat dog capitalism" seems very odd. You get the "dog eat dog" part with crony capitalism, where participants are competing for access to government coercive power to confer monopolies and subsidies and such. But in a true free-market economy, especially a local one, what you see is private individuals seeking to meet the community's needs--whether it's for car repairs, sweet corn, trash removal, construction, tomatoes, baked goods, hair cutting, or whatever. So the private individual learns the skill needed to provide for these needs and gets compensated as others do likewise. This is people doing good to other people. And if government isn't stealing most of the production, the result is staggering abundance--and people who pride themselves on the quality of their products and give their communities the very best.

bbq on whitehouse lawn's picture

The probem is money, you either have no limit or a limit to it. You cant choose both. Limitations, do you have them?
Dicide on that question first.

Charming Anarchist's picture

A wise Trapper told me: "You can not have money problems if you do not have/use money."

TradingIsLifeBrah's picture

The cruel reality is that a lot of those poor people will never be productive members of society and they would be less of a burden if they were dead.  Of course no one wants to hear that so instead we say, hey everyone who is productive why don't we just take a little of what you have done, say around 60-70% of it, and give it to the people sitting on their fat asses adding nothing.  Great way to get the people sitting on their fat asses to vote for you and then eventually even the people that were productive realize they could be having even more fun if they stopped being productive and sat on their fat ass too.  Then the government runs out of funds to steal from their citizens as everyone is sitting on their fat ass and then they start to meet their obligations through debt issuances.  And that party runs for a few years until the debt becomes due and then you are looking at Venezuela.  Vote Bernie and Have Fun (for the next few years at least)

DaveA's picture

As if anyone on ZH ever thought the bank bailouts were a good idea.

Bendromeda Strain's picture

Stroll down memory lane... the hard left only opposed them because they wanted some payout at the same time.

bsdetector's picture

Negativo Bendo... the left was not in control. All they could do was watch in awe as the rich enjoyed the benefits of socialized losses.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Thought experiment: In what way are food stamps not every bit as socialist, as bank bailouts? You bet your ass that RalphbertVons loves food stamps.

Thom_333's picture

YES! And when food becomes scarce you can print unlimited amounts of food stamps. Pure genius!

open-range's picture

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do...

NoDebt's picture

God DAMN, I'm definitely voting for Bernie now.  Gotta get me some of that socialism shit.

KnuckleDragger-X's picture

Yep, after all this really "savage suffering", but on final approach to socialist nirvana........

VinceFostersGhost's picture



It's just that they keep doing it.........wrong.

NoDebt's picture

They just never seem to have the right people running it.  The system itself is, of course, perfect.  It's just so damned hard to find the people who can run it right.

Beowulf55's picture

....just ask the hookers.........