When I am my gringo self and adrift in Venezuela, I usually have time to think, and there are too many people eager to tell me about the situacion, so I can’t help but try to puzzle things out.
I`ve been a Venezuela watcher for 26 years. Still, I am constantly surprised when I return here. Things are never as they seem. How can one explain that in this industrialized country with endless oil reserves, maybe 30% of its citizens suffer from what we might call food insecurity ? Can it really be true that many of these 30%, as my brother-in-law says, would rather borrow money to employ a plastic surgeon than schedule a long overdue medical check-up ?
I believe for our part, North American media does a poor job of reporting here. I recently listened to a podcast of Oliver Stone promoting his new documentary “South of the Border”, claiming that the United States is once again trying to bring down a Latin country daring to be independent of our empire. To prove it, he puts a montage of FOX clips together: “Chavez is more dangerous than Castro ever was, Chavez is a terrorist”. Both he and FOX do a perfect job of failing to peel back the onion. They focus on our policy toward Venezuela while ignoring how the Venezuelans are governing themselves (or not).
OK, enough soapboxing. The onion that is peeling itself back right now is yet another scandal. Recently, reports began surfacing in what is left of the independent press of massive amounts of spoiled food sitting in shipping containers in Venezuelan ports, or being dumped in landfills, riverbeds and hillsides around the country. Citizens started by simply reporting overwhelming odors and asking what was going on. The government is not talking about it much and not promising to investigate just yet, but more information keeps coming to light. It turns out that the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA has recently gotten themselves into the food distribution business, and they apparently don`t have much experience. Venezuela has always imported a lot of food, because they can, with a steady flow of cash from petroleum sales. But importation has increased in recent years, for a number of reasons. One of them apparently is the Chavez government`s policy of taking some large private farming operations away from landowners, which is a whole separate story in itself.
There is a lot more onion to peel here. When I have more information and more time, I`ll post an update. For the next few days, I`ll be off the grid in Boca de Uchire, on the Carribean coast several hours east of Caracas.