Manufactured Shortages in Venezuela

by on November 17, 2007 · 6 comments

in World News

by Gary Ghirardi

In the latest of private sector pressure on the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela another “essential?” commodity has been added to the list of shortages; toilet paper.

With each proceeding month of a popular democracy moving forward, to amend their new constitution to increase the popular power base, the multinationals and industrialists continue their war on the people by manufacturing shortages of basic essential goods. First it was milk, followed by beans,rice, coffee, eggs, chicken and even sugar, all native crops and foods produced in Venezuela. The explanations for this in the corporate press were governmental restrictions on currency mobility, price controls and rising costs externally. Some of this is the case with imported goods but clearly some shortages from internal production were directed at Venezuela’s poor, the major support base of government, hoping to denigrate the support for the reform government and against the price controls instituted by the government.

The nations privately held grocery stores, all foreign companies, are feeling the pressures of price regulation after runaway markups on a hugely U.S. centered import dependency and have protested about interference by the government. This has fueled periodic non-compliance on pricing and fueled a black market in food. Chávez began regulating prices for 400 basic products as a way to counter inflation and protect the poor. In the markets in Caracas it is common to see food imports at twice to three times the cost of the same food products in the U.S. supermarket chains. The shortages are even effecting the national food programs like Mission Mercal who provide basic food stuffs at half the prices of the national food chains.

The same pressures are effecting other governmental reforms as well. When the government re-nationalized the electricity company from a U.S. based energy giant that controlled 70% of South American energy conveyance, the credit card companies eliminated the ability of the country’s middle and upper classes to use their card accounts to pay the monthly bill.

Rising prices on food and shortages in other countries where environmental and fuel prices are being cited would only effect the imported goods for Venezuela as gasoline here is the worlds lowest at 14 cents a gallon. Those private producers in the nation of beans, rice, coffee and sugar have refused to produce in line with government price controls fueling shortages and in the cases of corporate food producers like Polar Corporation have used as their form of protest against the government producing manufactured shortages.

The situation has caused the government to fund its own food production projects through their popular cooperative programs and national processing plants but will require development time to accommodate the national need.

With the constitutional reform referendum 14 days away we can expect similar tactics and worse in the days ahead and after the inevitable passage of these popular reforms by the majority of Venezuelans who will benefit from them.

Gary Ghirardi

(Gary Ghirardi lives in Venezuela with his wife. As a former San Diegan, he knows many of the OB Rag bloggers.)

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Molly Maquire November 17, 2007 at 1:55 pm

What is the reaction down there to all this fuss about Chavez and the King of Spain?

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avatar OB Joe November 18, 2007 at 10:31 am

Acouple of things; first any news from Veneszuela here in the US is negative, so obviously we need independent accounts of what’s going on down there. Plus I don’t think there’s anyway that the US could assert itself miltiarily there -we are already so stretched line especially with all the talk of bombing or attacking Iran. Unless there is a US surrogate in the region (Panama? Columbia?) Also, what is your perspective of the close general (forgot his name) who has come against the constitutional changes? And what about these changes? Is this a left-wing dictatorship?

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avatar anon anarchist November 18, 2007 at 10:58 pm

Are you kidding? We don’t get new from the corporate press about the peoples struggles in South America. Its all so one -sided, totally in sympathy with the capitalists. you ought not to rely on anything the San Diego Onion says.

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avatar Gary Ghirardi November 20, 2007 at 8:24 am

Molly,

The reaction to the comment was marked by the politics, or lack of, that permeates everything here with Chávez and the Bolivarian Government and that is sectarian prejudice. For the Chavista voices in the media they exposed the Venezuelan President’s side of the story. For the opposition, they feel this is additional evidence that Chávez is insane and an international and domestic danger and took glee in the moment as somhow an embarrassment for Chávez.

The meetings, in public and private sessions, were discussing the future of Latin America. Zapatero, the leftist party President of Spain was promoting, in the moment of the incident, the necessity for European and Latin American cohesion and Daniel Ortega, the Sandanista President of Nicaragua, spoke out of turn and said that there was a different model of transformation in Latin America and that Zapatero was promoting against the state and for the private firms to lead the way with the privatization model. Zapatero had the King of Spain next to him, known for his work as a lobbist for the corporations in Spain. Chavez, also out of turn, added to Ortega’s argument about all that Europe takes off from Latin America and Africa in business as he is doing today in meetings in Peru. The king sitting next to Zapatero started to protest and Chavez then refered to the former President of Spain, Aznar, from the right party as a fascist who in collaboration with the king had participated in the planning of the coup against him and were in contact with the business leader Carmona who the right wing in Venezuela put in power during the failed coup.

First off, the opposition in Venezuela and in Spain supported the king. For example, a journalist from Globovision, the leading opposition media outlet , Nitu Osuna, and a filial journalist of CNN , went to Spain. She was part of a tv program that was re-transmitted all along Venezuela on the pro-government stations demonizing Chavez with the Spanish public.

Also, Venezuelans had the opportunity of following the entire dialogue of the public meetings on tv and have the words of the king in context.

The Miami and U.S. reporting on the incident lacked the essential issue that was being discussed at the moment of the King of Spain’s comment.

The main points in Venezuela are:

1) the proposal of Zapatero for a neoliberal solution for Latin America, for solving poverty in Venezuela. Prior to the Bolivarian government the Spanish firms were buying Venezuelan national industries like the airlines and iron factories in order to destroy them and then dispose of the markets previously supplied by Venezuelan firms to Spanish companies;

2) the nationalist implications for Venezuela and Latin America in the the arrogant attitude of the king which go together with the accusation of Aznar’s participation in the planning of April 2002 coup;

3)the possible agreement between the two main Spanish parties (Zapatero’s and Aznar’s). In Latin America, leftist people supported the axis of Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua. I didn’t see all of it, but it seems that the Cuban representative talked at the end in support of Chavez, however Fidel made a suggestion to Chavez: do not enter in too many problems at the same time.

Middle and upper class peoples of all Latin American countries support the king, and go ahead demonizing Chavez.

Go to aporrea.org to learn more if you speak Spanish: http://www.aporrea.org/

or to Venezuelan Analysis if you don’t: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/

G

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avatar Gary Ghirardi November 20, 2007 at 10:26 am

OB Joe,

The article about the former General, Raul Baduel informs your question better than I can and is in English at:

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2850

The former General, Raul Baduel, was defense minister prior to his “retirement” in July. He came up through the ranks with Chavez in the Venezuelan military and was a founding member of the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement. He always appeared on television as a man of quality and conscience and I beleve he is. It seems that he denounced the additional constituional reform process as “unnecessary” feeling that the 1999 constitution provides enough provisions for a socialist democratic government to proceed forward. I think it is an issue of social radicalism versus social liberalism and it is clear that Chavez wants to move reforms ahead quickly and many of the new reforms are designed to facilitate this. The article also implicates Chavez in the creation of a “state capitalism” that Baduel feels is against the goals of the revolution. I also believe with tensions so elevated here that many more moderate supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution would prefer that things remain as
they are now with government programs of social benefit instituted and functioning to co-exist with a dynamic economy with much corporate style capitalism in full bloom. There are many contradictions in such a society where social justice programs and free market capitalism are both in play. It has further fractured Venezuela already divided by enormous racial and economic divisions and has caused Bolivarians and Opposition to push harder for their concept of society. Though the Chavistas expect to win, the reforms need to pass by a majority of Venezuelan voters on December 2nd 2007.

And to answer your question whether Venezuela has a left wing dictatorship, It has been my impression that it does not as the types of people I have met in the government have been thinking people and are from the intelligencia, acadamy or poor popular councils and all have seemed people of good intent. I have worked in the Office of International Cooperation of the Mayors Office on three projects and have found the work culture to be progressive and cooperative. The Venezuelan people are rebellious culturally and the day to day life is without the signs of repression, even very little police intervention into daily life. If anything it seems a bit anarchistic with people doing what they want: Violent riots at the University of Venezuela without police or Government interference. Red lights at street intersections advisory only. A U.S. person has to wonder at it all.

In defining what is politics I think that people support those who supports their interests. In the United States the corporations have the Democratic and Republican parties and the people identify with corporate government or feel unrepresented. In the case of Venezuela, a leader and government emerged that provided support to the majority of Venezuelan citizens who were poor and disenfranchised from the traditional parties that supported the weathy business class and the middle class that benefited from this association.

All these governments are paid for by all of us who put gasoline in our cars.

Links:

Venezuelan Constituional site in different languages (Including English)

Referendum for Venezuelan Constitutional Reform to be in 2 Parts
http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/2798

Venezuelan Govenment English Bulletin

The Struggle for a United Socialist Party of Venezuela
http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2856

Venezuela: Reform Battle Continues As Chavez Ally Splits

G

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avatar G Ghirardi November 21, 2007 at 5:08 am

For Pro-Bolivarian Venezuelan Perspectives Also checkout BoRev – http://www.borev.net/
A site written in a friendly Califormia speak

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