Venezuela devastated by Chavismo

AP


Pubblicato il 11/01/2018
Ultima modifica il 11/01/2018 alle ore 08:47

Diamonds, gold, and precious metals to pay for drugs: the decision by the government of Caracas to resort to precious raw materials to repay 5 billion dollars of debt owed to main pharmaceutical groups highlights the failure of Venezuela as a national state. 

 

Twenty years after the presidential election of Hugo Chavez, and five years after his succession by Nicolas Maduro, the “Bolivarian revolution” has turned one of the largest oil-rich countries on the planet in a ruthless example of economic and political failure. At the end of 2017, Venezuela had 150 billion dollars of debt with reserves for only 10 billion. Widespread corruption and nepotism have wasted flows of money, made the oil drilling industry inefficient and, amid plummeting oil prices, thrust into poverty a large part of a country making 25% of GDP from oil.  

Imports dropped from 66 billion dollars in 2012 to 18 billion in 2016, and foreign products have disappeared, feeding a flourishing black market run by “bachaqueros”, illegal vendors affiliated with gangs who offer on the street 9,000 bolivares for 1 dollar instead of the official 10-1 change.  

 

The confiscation of private companies started under Chavez, and continued under Maduro, has produced more than 500 public companies, partly heavily indebted, and all sorts of crime, violence and poverty: until the appalling revelation by the Pharmaceutical Federation that since 2016 at least 85% of drugs have become unavailable.  

 

This is the reason behind the shortage in hospitals of antibiotics, gauzes, and even soap, while mortality has increased in the past 24 months by 30% for children and 65% for mothers. While Maduro and his ministers continue to deny such figures, one just needs to go to Venezuela to realize that the disintegration of the country’s human fabric has reached an advanced stage, with 87% of the population without enough money to buy necessary food and 30% of school-age children underfed. 

In a rapid succession of electoral and constitutional attacks, Maduro has been able to keep control of this essentially bankrupt country – because incapable of safeguarding the minimum citizen rights – and is now looking to the presidential elections this year as a way to preserve his absolute power over what remains of chavismo.  

 

Suspended by his Mercosur neighbors, pushed out by the Organization of American States and hurt by economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, Maduro has turned his back on the IMF and found political support and economic aid in Beijing and Moscow. It was the ideological card of the deep aversion to the United States, already played by Chavez to side with Castro’s Cuba and Ayatollah-led Iran, to help Maduro find 60 billion dollars of loans in China, persuade Russia’s Rosneft to sell 13% of its own oil, restructure 3 billion dollars of debt thanks to the Kremlin and commit to becoming by 2025 the largest importer of Russian weapons. But not even such economic and financial support from Beijing and Moscow until the end of 2017 – in addition to the privileged ties with Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia – have allowed Maduro to find the necessary resources to buy drugs. Hence, the extreme decision to offer barter deals with diamonds, gold and rare metals such as coltan – used to build mobile phones and videogame consoles – acknowledging the collapse of the “strong bolivar”, the currency created in 2018 by removing three zeros from the previous currency but which has since lost 97% of its value. Health Minister Luis López, who calls himself “an extremist anti-imperialist”, is trying to end the trade ordered by Maduro – once called by Chavez a “wonderful” economic experience – by tapping the reserves of ruthless traffickers in the Amazonian region. But also bartering is struggling to produce results and 95% of the medicines available three years ago are no longer on the market. As a result, in addition to the emergency of poverty, crime and the lack of democracy, the healthcare crisis is hurting 30 million Venezuelans, including more than 200,000 Italians. This is a tragedy of epic proportions for a nation of European culture which the European Union is reluctant to address with effective measures, showing a moral, more than political, delay in rescuing the victims of Chavismo. 

 

Translated by Antonella Ciancio  

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