Barely News: Dire Venezuelan Shortages Bring Military Into Grocery Stores

January 10th, 2015 10:39 AM

Three results returned in a search at the Associated Press's national site on "Venezuela" tell us almost nothing about that country's deepening economic crisis.

An unbylined January 10 item reports on the visit of Nicolas Maduro, the country's de facto dictator, to Iran in hopes of "stabilizing" (i.e., raising) oil prices. A second unbylined report on January 9 tells readers that there's really nothing to worry (oh sure) about in China's growing Latin American influence. Only the faintest hint of the horrors everyday Venezuelans are now experiencing appeared on January 7. The following two paragraphs appeared at the very end of a report describing Maduro's visit to China:

Venezuela is struggling with the world's highest inflation rate, a recession and a cash crunch worsened by a steep fall in the price of oil.

It has so far unsuccessfully urged OPEC nations to work together to drive up oil prices, which have fallen by half in six months. Venezuela depends on oil for 95 percent of its export income.

Well, that settles it. Since the AP didn't report it, we must conclude that the country's accelerating descent into socialist tyranny couldn't possibly be the cause of its serious economic problems. That high inflation rate (an annualized 60 percent or so) just sort of showed up out of nowhere; no one has any idea where it came from. And that overdependence on oil has nothing to do with the state-run oil company's inefficiency, or the fact that most other industries have either been crippled or nationalized.

Fortunately, one publication has at least covered a little of what's really going on there. On Friday, Bloomberg's Andrew Rosati and Noris Soto reported information almost guaranteed to be ignored by the rest of the U.S. establishments press, at least told readers that it's getting really ugly — but still danced around why it's happening:

Venezuelans Throng Grocery Stores Under Military Protection

Shoppers thronged grocery stores across Caracas today as deepening shortages led the government to put Venezuela’s food distribution under military protection.

Long lines, some stretching for blocks, formed outside grocery stores in the South American country’s capital as residents search for scarce basic items such as detergent and chicken.

... A dearth of foreign currency exacerbated by collapsing oil prices has led to shortages of imports from toilet paper to car batteries, and helped push annual inflation to 64 percent in November. The lines will persist as long as price controls remain in place, Luis Vicente Leon, director of Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis, said today in a telephone interview.

Government officials met with representatives from supermarket chains today to guarantee supplies, state news agency AVN reported. Interior Minister Carmen Melendez said yesterday that security forces would be sent to food stores and distribution centers to protect shoppers.

... Inside a Plan Suarez grocery store yesterday in eastern Caracas, shelves were mostly bare. Customers struggled and fought for items at times, with many trying to skip lines. The most sought-after products included detergent, with customers waiting in line for two to three hours to buy a maximum of two bags. A security guard asked that photos of empty shelves not be taken.

Police inside a Luvebras supermarket in eastern Caracas intervened to help staff distribute toilet paper and other products.

... “You can’t find anything, I’ve spent 15 days looking for diapers,” Jean Paul Mate, a meat vendor, said outside the Luvebras store. “You have to take off work to look for products. I go to at least five stores a day.”

... “What we’re seeing is worse than usual, it’s not only a seasonal problem,” Datanalisis’s Leon said. “Companies are not sure how they will restock their inventories or find merchandise, with a looming fear of a devaluation.”

... “This is the worst it has ever been -- I’ve seen lines thousands of people long,” Greisly Jarpe, a 42-year-old data analyst, said as she waited for dish soap in eastern Caracas. “People are so desperate they’re sleeping in the lines.”

Once reasonably prosperous, Hugo Chavez's and Maduro's "workers' paradise" is quickly heading towards Third World status — and the business press refuses to tell the world's readers, listeners and viewers why.

Really, folks. It only takes one word, the Spanish version of which is "socialismo."

Cross-posted at