"I Haven't Eaten Meat In 2 Months" - Venezuelan Oil Workers Are Collapsing From Hunger On The Job

Those who are unfamiliar with Venezuela’s unprecedented economic collapse might be surprised to learn that the country’s oil production has only slowed, even as the price of a barrel of crude has risen in most international markets.

Unsurprisingly (it’s Venezuela), there’s a macabre explanation for this phenomenon: The workers at PDVSA - Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, which once showered Venezuelans with oil wealth - are literally collapsing due to hunger and exhaustion as workers defy their government handlers and flee their jobs in their desperation as the value of their pay has been completely erased.

Bloomberg spoke with several workers in Venezuela’s oil industry about the harsh conditions they face on a daily basis.

Venezuela

Of course, oil workers aren’t the only ones suffering: The situation in Venezuela is getting so dire that ordinary Venezuelans are losing tons of body weight because of the food shortages. Many can no longer afford to buy meat.

One worker told Bloomberg about how his weekly salary barely pays for the corn flour he mixes with water and drinks every morning.

At 6:40 a.m., Pablo Ruiz squats at the gate of a decaying refinery in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, steeling himself for eight Sisyphean hours of brushing anti-rust paint onto pipes under a burning sun. For breakfast, the 55-year-old drank corn-flour water.

Ruiz’s weekly salary of 110,000 bolivares — about 50 cents at the black-market exchange rate — buys him less than a kilo of corn meal or rice. His only protein comes from 170 grams of canned tuna included in a food box the government provides to low-income families. It shows up every 45 days or so.

“I haven’t eaten meat for two months,” he said. “The last time I did, I spent my whole week’s salary on a chicken meal.”

Hunger is hastening the ruin of Venezuelan’s oil industry as workers grow too weak and hungry for heavy labor. With children dying of malnutrition and adults sifting garbage for table scraps, food has become more important than employment, and thousands are walking off the job. Absenteeism and mass resignations mean few are left to produce the oil that keeps the tattered economy functioning.

Researchers at three Venezuelan Universities reported losing on average 11 kilograms (24 lbs) in body weight last year and almost 90% now live in poverty, according to a new university study on the impact of a devastating economic crisis and food shortages. That annual survey has become a key barometer of the country’s economic stress since the government stopped releasing reliable economic data, as Reuters reports.

Per Reuters, over 60% of Venezuelans surveyed said that during the previous three months they had woken up hungry because they did not have enough money to buy food. About a quarter of the population was eating two or less meals a day.

After winning the presidency in 1999, leftist President Hugo Chavez was proud of improving Venezuela’s social indicators as the country’s economy was bolstered by oil-fueled welfare policies.

But his successor President Nicolas Maduro, who has ruled since 2013, has allowed corruption to flourish. And his political allies have mismanaged the economy to such a degree that the collapse in the price of oil during 2014 had ruinous consequences.

Even as the price of crude has begun to creep materially higher, the situation in Venezuela is only getting worse.

In contemporary Venezuela, currency controls restrict food imports, hyperinflation eats into salaries, and people line up for hours to buy basics like flour.

As a result, 90% of Venezuelans live in poverty.

In what appears to be a last-ditch effort to rescue the country’s economy and his regime, President Nicolas Maduro yesterday began sales of the Petro, Venezuela’s oil-backed cryptocurerency. The launch was so successful, Maduro has assured the public, that he is considering launch a “Petro Oro” - a cryptocurrency backed by gold reserves.

VZ

But perhaps even more shocking than the dire circumstances under which PDVSA’s remaining employees go to work every day is the contrast with the country’s prosperous past, as Bloomberg describes it…

For decades, PDVSA was a dream job in a socialist petro-state. The company supplied workers not only with a good living and revolutionary-red coveralls, but cafeterias that served lunches with soup, a main course, dessert and freshly squeezed juice. Now, the cafeterias are mostly bare, the children are hungry and employees are leaving to work as taxi drivers, plumbers or farmers. Some emigrate. Some hold out as long as they can.

...Now, instead of enjoying the trappings of a comfortable, middle-class life (not to mention freshly squeezed fruit juice), desperate employees are risking the government’s wrath - and possibly sacrificing their chance at a government pension someday - to escape not only from their jobs, but from Venezuela.

Those who quit without notice risk losing their pensions, as bureaucrats refuse to process paperwork. Many managers live in terror of arrest since the Maduro regime purged the industry, imprisoning officials from low-level apparatchiks to former oil ministers. In one human resources office, a sign advertised a limit of five resignations a day.

"Management is holding them back to stop brain and technical drain," said Jose Bodas, general secretary of United Federation of Venezuelan Oil Workers. He estimates 500 employees have resigned at the Puerto La Cruz refinery and nearby processing facilities in the past 12 months - even though superiors have labeled them "traitors to the homeland," a phrase that often precedes arrest. In the streets, families sell their boots and the red coveralls.

"They’re giving up because of hunger," Bodas said. "They’re leaving because they get paid better abroad. This is unheard of, a catastrophe."

In a nightmarish reflection of what life must’ve been like in some of the most poverty stricken areas of the Soviet Union, widespread adsenteeism is forcing those who stay behind to work long hours at the state’s insistence - without any additional compensation.

Sitting in the living room of his house, on his day off, Endy Torres says he has lost 33 pounds over the past 18 months. He shows his PDVSA identification photo as proof: a chubby-cheeked man, weighing 176 pounds.

Ten years ago, he joined the company expecting an ample salary and comfortable pension. Today, his 700,000 bolivars per month, plus a food bonus of 1.6 million bolivars (about $9.50 altogether) can’t fill the fridge at his grandmother’s house, where he lives.

About 10 people from his department resigned in January. There are 263 plant operators remaining and 180 vacancies at the Puerto La Cruz refinery, he said.

Absenteeism forces those who show up to work extra hours and burn precious calories. The lack of investment in equipment and maintenance has increased technical failures, almost all in the early hours of the morning, he said. When they occur, workers are too fatigued to act quickly, and accidents occur.

And the worst part of it all is: Even if oil prices make a surprise comeback, years of favoritism, corruption and - now - international sanctions mean it’s unlikely Venezuela’s oil industry will suddenly blossom once again: For those who stay behind, the formerly wealthiest country in Latin America will probably remain mired in poverty, for as long as it’s ruled by a corrupt autocracy.

 

Comments

Sudden Debt Baron von Bud Fri, 02/23/2018 - 04:01 Permalink

They should be the richest country on earth and yet the population decided to vote for a socialist communist government that promised free shit to everybody 

a bit like what Americans are trying to do right now.

Let somebody else pay for it... untill there's nobody else to pick up the tab.

 

The Venezuelians did it to themselves. It's a lesson in greed and lazyness.

And now they have to pick up the bill they created.

 

Americans are doing it on a massive scale right now. The dollar is the greatest free shit distributor to it's citizens and for the last 2 decades it's breaking down at a constantly faster rate.

It's so big and that's why it's also so slow to break down.  

But when it crumbles completly, nothing will be able to save it.

 

In reply to by Baron von Bud

EddieLomax Big Whoop Fri, 06/15/2018 - 10:35 Permalink

The sarcasm will be lost on some, but they apparently achieved unmatched since efficiency.  They must of, otherwise those large payments in reparations would have been much smaller...

I am constantly amazed by human nature, like the Wiemar republic, its obvious whats going on, even long after its obvious and yet the sorry story carries on.  And then 20 years later people somewhere else on the planet will repeat it, whether its hyperinflation or socialism.

Maybe Starship Troopers had a point, everyone needs to join the military to get citizenship.  Perhaps if people were sent over to see these sort of hell holes they would not be so keen to recreate them back home, sending them over to places like this with guns and body armour is also the only way to hope to get your kids back in one piece too...

In reply to by Big Whoop

Lore J S Bach Thu, 02/22/2018 - 23:00 Permalink

Yeah. Interesting:  Tyler mentions American sanctions only in the very last sentence. Sneaking in critical but narrative-unfriendly details at the tail end of an article is a tactic used incessantly by Fake News agencies. 

Tough New Illegal US Sanctions on Venezuela. Economic Warfare (17-Aug-2017)

On Friday, the Trump administration escalated economic war on Venezuelan sovereign independence.

Since established in 1999, the nation’s Bolivarian social democracy was targeted for elimination. Washington wants fascist tyranny replacing it.

The geopolitical prize is gaining control of Venezuela’s huge oil resources, the world’s largest – the Trump administration waging political, economic and resource war to achieve its objective, maybe military intervention if current tactics fail.

Cut out the meddling middleman, and watch the economy get rolling again. 

In reply to by J S Bach

RedBaron616 J S Bach Fri, 02/23/2018 - 08:12 Permalink

Really? So getting away from the dollar will make socialism flourish? Time you take a different name because Bach was a lot brighter than you are. When the industry/government brands people "traitors of the homeland" for not working for virtually nothing, you know this is a Socialist/Communist state. Only you think dumping the dollar will bring them prosperity. The Venezuelans are voting with their feet and would kill for a dollar because it is worth so much more than their own worthless currency.

In reply to by J S Bach

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Number 9 Thu, 02/22/2018 - 22:52 Permalink

It sounds like the guy didn't plan ahead. He doesn't know how to catch rats? Pigeons?

In my area we have 30-lb raccoons that run in packs. Lots of possums. Norway rats (my neighbor catches about one or two a week, he lives next to the drainage pond and complains about it). Plenty of coyotes but ewwww. Tons of pigeons. Seagulls, down on the water front. Squirrels which are rats with tails and I despise the little fuckers because they eat my day lillies!

Even with a little pellet rifle you can get pigeon and other small creatures. Not hard to catch rats with a bucket and a bottle and some bait. I posted links below to two Utube channels with tons of basic traps you can make cheaply, with minimal tools.

In reply to by Number 9

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 CNONC Thu, 02/22/2018 - 23:20 Permalink

I agree. It would only be temporary. I would start raising chickens and rabbits in the back yard, fuck the HOA rules.

As for rats? I don't know anyplace that has a shortage. Maybe NOKO. It's gross but I will eat rat to save myself from having to eat pets and people.

I think, in my suburban area, a lot of people are clueless and would be too horrified to think about eating rats or squirrels. Good. While they are starving and being horrified I will be staying strong and thriving. That's my plan. What's yours?

In reply to by CNONC

CNONC HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Thu, 02/22/2018 - 23:41 Permalink

I fled the suburbs a couple of years ago.  I am approaching total self sufficiency in food with backyard agriculture on 2 acres.  I am also debt free and at a point where I can pay the remaining bills (primarily home, health, and auto insurance.  My utility usage is down to about 100 dollars a month.  I am installing a coal fired natural circulation hydronic heating system this summer that should bring my utilities to zero.) working 2 days a month.  So I feel well prepared, but I know that, despite my preparations, I will be surprised by the unforeseen hazards which will present themselves.

I'll eat rats if I have to.  But even they are in short supply.  I had a house in Atlanta with a guest house that I didn't use for several years.  When I went to sell the property, I found an epic Norway rat infestation in the guest house.  It at first seemed as though there were hundreds of rats.  I set up shop with a pellet rifle and began killing rats.  I killed less than twenty and the infestation was done.  I suspect many fled the onslaught, but I was amazed at the limited numbers evident in a major infestation.

In reply to by HRH of Aquitaine 2.0

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 CNONC Fri, 02/23/2018 - 00:47 Permalink

Sounds like you have money to burn. I am a fan of heat sinks. Best one I have seen is a heat sink you can use in places like the desert southwest, bricks / sand / Windows and you can recirculate the heat into tubes that heat water.

The other option, as I prefer colder climates, is a sand / block / airflow heat sink built into the foundation, preferably under the main fireplace. Fabulous set up to maximize your heat source to a larger house with fans to circulate the heat. Simple concept. Not used very often.

Zero energy for utilities is the up and coming thing. Good if you have the money. When I land in my next spot it will probably be a house that is 1000 SF or less. Basic. Not complicated.

In reply to by CNONC

Implied Violins HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 00:29 Permalink

I plan to eat the people that eat people.  But only after I pass them through rats first.

And there WILL be rats, especially in an urban environment. All that uncollected garbage and bodies will attract lots of rodents.

I also got a pellet gun and about 5000 pellets, probably more than the gun can shoot before breaking, but I'm ready.  And I've got an SKS to keep people away from my kills.  Should be fun times!

In reply to by HRH of Aquitaine 2.0

Benjamin123 HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 08:31 Permalink

Im from Venezuela and i almost never saw any rats there. Or squirrels. Mostly pigeons, stray cats and stray dogs.

Venezuelans only care about appearances and would rather starve to death while working a full time job, for free, as long as it brought them "respect" thorough virtue signaling. You see this with university professors and doctors, they often claim to work for nearly free, to be hungry, and to do it out of love and a desire to help the country.

They would eat better as subsistence farmers but that wont bring them respect.

In reply to by HRH of Aquitaine 2.0

bonin006 CNONC Fri, 02/23/2018 - 00:33 Permalink

RE smarter than you think - Yes, my wife wanted me to kill some squirrels with a pellet gun because they were eating all the crab apples off a tree we had. She wanted to save them for the birds. There must have been close to a dozen squirrels in the yard. I fired off one shot and they all just disappeared, like they had access to a Star Trek transporter, only 10 times faster.

In reply to by CNONC

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 bonin006 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 00:37 Permalink

One, you need to watch the Squirrel Hunter channel on Utube. That guy has some awesome pellet guns. He, and his brother, make a living clearing out squirrels from farms.

Two, the other way to catch squirrels is the way you catch rats, with a trap. Best trap I have seen is a plank, inside a garbage can with a lid. Brilliant set up. Perfect. And eating squirrel is legit, too.

Best rat/squirrel trap: https://youtu.be/YfaDQJVplYI

Here is a link to the brothers that are profession vermin Hunter's in the UK (warning, graphic): https://youtu.be/3kXun2O4ejo

In reply to by bonin006

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Stevious Fri, 02/23/2018 - 00:30 Permalink

I am a pretty good cook. With some spice, onion, garlic and herbs I can make anything taste good. Most haute cuisine started when people were forced to use uncommon ingredients in order to make them taste good. Meat preservation is a critical skill. Salt, smoke, vinegar are key to food preservation.

People in the western world are spoiled. I come from country folk on my mother's side of the family. They were from way northern Maine, eastern Canada (namely Nova Scotia) and prior to landing in the new world they were from Scandinavia / Germany / Ireland. My family doesn't have any bloodline other than we adapted and survived.

Rats are edible. I need to add latex gloves to my supplies. Skin them, gut them, and cook well. I am guessing putting them in buttermilk or a vinegar/milk powder/salt soak for a few hours does wonders. Throw the bits into a soup and you have dinner for six.

In reply to by Stevious

Aerows HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 01:09 Permalink

Squirrels are absolutely able to make a meal. Practice safety precautions while preparing them, and you will be fine.  Goats are awesome.  You get meat, weed management and fertilization. 

I like quails, though.  Easy to keep, grow extremely fast, and you get eggs and meat in around 9 weeks. If you have a decent sized house or apartment, you can even raise them inside a rabbit coop. I'm not the biggest fan of eggs on the planet, but they are tasty if there isn't a protein source readily available - you just have to use about ten of them for a family meal, and quail are prolific layers.

Windowsill gardening. You can take celery bought from the store, stick the root it in a jar of water and have perpetual celery for weeks off of one purchase.

You don't have to possess large amounts of land to be able to provide for your family.  

You just need to have some sense.

In reply to by HRH of Aquitaine 2.0

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Aerows Fri, 02/23/2018 - 01:44 Permalink

I agree! Quali are a perfect food to raise for a small family. I am single so that would be good! Pigeons, too.

I agree, people have no sense on basic skills. The stuff that humanity has done for thousands of years people have forgotten. Eggs are good protein. I love eggs and have lots of egg recipes. I agree about goats. Goat meat is the most widely consumed meat in the world, outside of the US.

Rabbits are good too. You have to supplement your diet with fats so you don't get rabbit fever from too much protein and not enough fat. Couple of gallons of olive oil, stored in the garage, and you're good to go!

In reply to by Aerows

Aerows Number 9 Thu, 02/22/2018 - 23:58 Permalink

Themselves.  Windowsill garden.  Quail raised in the house in a rabbit coop.  If they have a yard, even better, raise rabbits and chickens along with growing beans.

Teach your kids like skills such as that, and you have raised a person that will survive and be able to help not just themselves, their family members and others.

In reply to by Number 9