A massive lack of everything started in Venezuela in 2012. I remember scarcity of minor products and brief failures of water supply during my childhood in the 80s but only during the dry season. But never as frequent as of this last decade, never. The first good that begun disappearing was toilet paper, and back during the early second decade of this century, it was almost impossible to find such an item. Spaniard TV news mocked us due to such scarcity, and it was also a joke here in my country. However, and with all reasons in those days, the government was most worry trying to justify the illness of the former president Chavez.
Then, came the death of this man and the ascension of his successor. The lack of goods spread to other items and the main staple foods. There was no wheat to make bread. The government justified such scarcity with the argument on the nutritional habits of the Venezuelans, they told everyone: we most prefer corn flour… Which has not been historically true, since Venezuelans had traditionally used both types of flour daily, since colonial times. A great number of bakeries broke. The worst happened with the proteins; poultry, red meat, and fish disappeared inter weekly.
Moreover, public services started to shorten especially the water supply. The small towns far from the reservoirs were affected first, afterward small cities were affected, and since 2015 big areas of Caracas, the country’s capital had been affected. My neighborhood receives water once a week and sometimes every ten days.
Electric shortcuts are the most dreadful lack of service. In the town of Venezuela where I have my project, Macuro, they have sometimes more than a month without electric service. In the capital of the Sucre State, Cumana, you have electric blackouts of more than a day. In Maracaibo, the second city of the nation, shorts are awful and lethal over hospitals and sanitary services. When the service return, it came on pulses or at a higher voltage with the consequences on the electric system of the houses and the industry. It was famous for the national total blackouts of the years 2018 and 2019 which happens for several days in several states simultaneously.
Communications are so terrible that you could have several weeks without signal in most of the towns. Two months ago, my father and mother lost their land phone line in Caracas, as well as their neighbors. The company said that they were unable to repair lines in this section of the city due to a lack of funds.
So finally, it came to the shortage of petrol this last year 2020. Although not directly in Caracas, two years before, the western part of Venezuela had been suffering gasoline scarcity. Amazing, an oil producer country with no petrol for its cars. Long queues of more than a hundred cars for at least several hours trying to fill your tank, the government implemented days to fill gas tanks by using the ID number of cars the vehicles, and several stations wanted to be paid in dollars to reduce the queues. More alarming is what happens on the roads of Venezuela, especially with the trucks that carry the foods, the losses are staggering. And, on many fisher towns where the fishermen returned to the use of rows and sails to navigate closer to the coast.
How does this massive scarcity happen? Well, the socialist government said that the international sanctions on the economy are responsible. Nevertheless, the facts point at two main origins; first of all, the expropriation of private business that started around the year 2005. Second, the nationalization of communications, electricity, and other public services. The new administrations reduced the prices until almost free for every service, all again the production costs, just to make the people happy. Meanwhile, sanctions started in 2017 although we are suffering from these problems since 2012 and before, as we mentioned above.
Another fact is the lack of maintenance and investment in public services. Old pipes of water supply are repaired only when they collapse and the repair is frequently badly done. Electric wires deteriorate until an explosion occurs, the government said that “iguanas” are damaging the wires. Electric plants work as much as they can do without being replaced, just smaller facilities from dubious origins spread across the nation, and now most of them are abandoned. The motorways are another calamity, and security on the roads as well. The national oil industry is a wreck, full of political allies, plus a huge migration of the best technicians since 2003.
Finally, is not only negligence, is the non-stop corruption. Huge budgets were announced in the early starts of the new socialist Venezuela, and with the last oil boom prices of 2006, but the conclusion of the investment was never seen. Expropriations resulted in the foreseen of such economic sectors; or the substitution for the worst service, due to unprepared bosses appointed by the government as loyal yes men of an autocracy that seems not to end.