January 12, 2019


Maduro Kicks Off Second Term With an Economic Disaster of His Own Making (Alex Vasquez  and Andrew Rosati, January 10, 2019, Bloomberg)

Since Maduro was elected in 2013 after Chavez died, the country has been brought low by mismanagement, corruption and the oil industry's collapse. In 2018, exports of crude, which once made the the nation South America's wealthiest, plummeted to a three-decade low of 1.25 million barrels a day. That's ravaged a population that now grapples with Soviet-style shortages, soaring prices and malnutrition.

"Last year was catastrophic, the worst I can remember," said Betty Diaz, who runs a soup kitchen in Petare, a hillside slum in eastern Caracas. Diaz feeds 130 children daily, but began turning teenagers away in favor of the youngest and most desperate. "For many of the children, the only meal a day they eat comes from us, but it's harder and harder for us to provide; every day it's more expensive."

Rolling blackouts and crumbling public services are endemic in countryside and capital alike. In Caracas, residents line up at mountainside springs to fill jugs and bathe children, while the hungry pick through garbage bins. Any plastic trash bag left on the street is methodically slit and sorted.

People are fleeing as they face both hunger and hyperinflation, which according to Bloomberg's Cafe Con Leche Index stands at almost 225,000 percent. Some 3 million Venezuelans now live abroad, and thousands more leave every day. The exodus has overwhelmed Venezuela's neighbors, but regional leaders have been unable to coordinate a response that would make Maduro change course -- and the outflow lowers pressure for change.

On Thursday, the Organization of American states voted to not recognize Maduro's second term, while Paraguay formally broke relations, the first South American country to do so.

Last week, Colombian President Ivan Duque stood alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and called on governments to "unite to reject the dictatorship of Venezuela and make all the necessary efforts to restore democracy." Twelve Latin American nations plus Canada -- the so-called Lima Group -- urged Maduro last week to hand over power to the opposition-led National Assembly and call fresh elections.

Posted by at January 12, 2019 9:12 AM