Friday 9 December 2016

Bread, toilet paper, medicine and beer are all in short supply in Venezuela - here's why

Published 17/05/2016 | 13:21

Anti-government demonstrators push against Bolivarian National Police blocking them from reaching the National Electoral Council (CNE) in Caracas, Venezuela
Anti-government demonstrators push against Bolivarian National Police blocking them from reaching the National Electoral Council (CNE) in Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela's Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez (R) speaks during a meeting with National Electoral Council (CNE) President Tibisay Lucena in Caracas, Venezuela, May 12, 2016
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela May 12, 2016

Bread, medicine, toilet paper and beer are just some of the basic necessities Venezuelans are struggling to find.

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Why is the country on the brink of collapse?

Low oil prices all over the world have hit the country hard. Despite its vast oil wealth, Venezuela has run out of cash. Public services are disappearing and US officials are warning that the entire country is on the brink of collapse.

Just two days ago the the New York Times reported that the country was on the brink of economic collapse.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela May 12, 2016
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela May 12, 2016

Emergency powers have been invoked by the President - so what does that mean for the man on the street?

The President Nicolas Maduro has threatened to seize factories that have ceased production and arrest their owners after extending emergency powers amid the country’s massive economic crisis.

Mr Maduro made his remarks Saturday, ordering “all actions to recover the production apparatus, which is being paralysed by the bourgeoisie.” He added that factory owners “sabotage the country” by halting production at their plants.

The Associated Press reports that Empresas Polar, the country’s largest food and drink distributor, closed its last beer plant, claiming that the company lacked the capital to purchase the raw materials necessary to continue production.

There's a conspiracy afoot, says the President - time to blame America

But Mr Madero sees the actions of Empresas Polar as a deliberate attempt to destabilise the economy.

The crisis has polarised Venezuelans, many of whom are protesting for a recall of the president. According to unnamed US intelligence officials, Washington doubts that Mr Maduro will allow a recall referendum to take place this year, according to Reuters.

The left-wing president accused Washington of plotting a coup against his administration - similar to the temporary ousting of then President Hugo Chavez in 2002.

“You can hear the ice cracking. You know there’s a crisis coming. Our pressure on this isn’t going to resolve this issue,” one official told reporters..

“This is really not the case that the US is rooting for any outcome other than there not be an economic meltdown or social violence,” another said. “There are reasons for concern that over the summer as Venezuela gives importance to payments on debt over imports that these events could spiral.”

There couldn't be something in the US conspiracy, could there?

Some activists, however, suggest that the US is fanning the flames that could lead to a coup.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said that if Mr Maduro blocks motions for a recall, then the country’s crisis would only worsen, the AP reports.

“If you obstruct the democratic way, we do not know what could happen in this country,” Mr Capriles said at a rally. “Venezuela is a bomb that could explode at any moment.”

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said that if Mr Maduro blocks motions for a recall, then the country’s crisis would only worsen, the AP reports.

“If you obstruct the democratic way, we do not know what could happen in this country,” Mr Capriles said at a rally. “Venezuela is a bomb that could explode at any moment.”

What will happen next?

Nobody really knows. According to analysts, Maduro frequently blames Venezuela’s problems on Washington for waging what he calls “economic war.” But 70% of Venezuelans think he is at fault for mismanaging the economy, and want him out of office, according to recent polls. 

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