Monday, October 29, 2007

The Morphing of a Nation (Updated)

Venezuelans waiting in line to buy milk were issued numbers representing their position in the line. The first step to a Ration Book.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ spent many years of his life cruising aboard a small sail boat visiting countries and places where the ordinary tourist does not venture. Two of the most interesting and contrasting cruising experiences were Venezuela and Cuba.

The Venezuela of the mid to late 1980s was a prosperous and cosmopolitan nation populated for the most part by a happy and relatively easy going citizenry with a large foreign expatriate community. The government, although left-leaning as evidenced by having nationalized the petroleum industry during the 1960s and implementing features of the welfare state, was on the whole, mostly democratic.

Venezuela has been exporting crude oil to the U.S. and other countries at the world market price (currently approaching US $90 per barrel) for at least 3 generations as well as trading freely with all nations. Evidence of this vigorous trade could be seen by visiting any supermarket such as Mercal or the other Venezuelan retail outlets where all consumer goods were available at prices the general population could afford.

The contrast with Cuba was as night and day. All Cubans must have a ration book to obtain any food items (with a daily calorie allowance of under 2000) even as the suitability of soil and climate makes Cuba one of the most fertile nations of the earth. Cubans are forced to endure the most primitive and abysmal health care in the western hemisphere, Michael Moore's socialist propaganda notwithstanding. In public, Cubans dare not speak a word of criticism of the regime but in private they related stories of terror and oppression that would curl one's hair. By forcing Cubans to use a Ration Book the regime has another way of forcing the population to obey its orders. If you do not march when the dictator wants you to march, or if you demand respect for your human rights, the regime can take your Ration Book away and make life even more difficult for you and your family.

In 1965 the currency exchange rate was 1 Ven Bolívar= 1 US dollar and many Venezuelans traveled to Miami on shopping excursions. By 1986 the rate was 1 Ven B= US $0.19. Since the so called "Bolivarian Revolution" implemented by Hugo Chávez since 1999 with his price controls and out of control spending on such items as 100,000 Russian automatic rifles, dozens of attack helicopters and two Kilo class Russian submarines, the official exchange rate is 2,144.5 VenB= US $1.00 with the "parallel" (black market) rate approaching 6,000 VenB= $1.00.

Hugo Chávez insists that Fidel Castro should be the model emulated by all "just and freedom loving societies". As in Cuba, expect the colas (consumer lines) to be blamed on the nonexistent "yanqui blockade". Heaven help the unfortunate Venezuelans.

cross posted at: Eternity Road

Update 10/30/07 @1730

Venezuelan newspapers are reporting that people who were waiting in line this weekend to buy milk, bread and other food staples at government run markets, instead of receiving a number, like it has been happening up to now, had to allow soldiers to write the number on the palm of their hands!

And after they were able to buy the products, they had one of their fingers marked with indelible ink, to prevent them from going to another market to buy more.

Several consumers complained that when they tried to go to other markets to buy more milk, they were refused service when the manager saw that their fingers were marked.

This is happening in Venezuela, when oil is selling for $92 a barrel and without the excuse of an US embargo.

Welcome to the Socialism of the XXI Century.
hat tip: The Real Cuba


BobG said...

Another banana republic in the making.

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