The civil unrest roiling Venezuela has its roots in the country’s dismal economy, which is experiencing soaring inflation and severe shortages of everyday necessities under the rule of socialist President Nicolas Maduro .
Nowhere is the decline of the once wealthy petro-state more pronounced than in the food economy, where Venezuelan citizens struggle to buy scarce quantities of staples such as milk and eggs. On the rare occasions when stores are stocked with imported food, most poor and working-class Venezuelans can only dream of scraping together enough money to buy anything that doesn’t have a fixed price. (RELATED: Bad Old Days: Venezuela Slides To Civil War As Trump Ratchets Up Pressure)
In the Venezuelan city of Puerto Cabello, an elderly disabled man tries to sell ice cream to fellow residents standing in a long line at a grocery store. The ice cream cones go for just 300 bolivars — the equivalent of $0.001 — but almost nobody is buying. Ice cream is considered an extravagance in a country where the minimum wage has fallen to $4.75 per month, Borys reports.
While Venezuela’s economy has been deteriorating for years, the situation has become even more dire since Maduro moved last month to install a new legislative body with the power to override all other government institutions. On July 29, the day before elections to inaugurate the new Constituent Assembly, the unofficial exchange rate rose to a staggering 10,389 bolivars to the U.S. dollar.
As prices for food and medical supplies climb out of reach for all but the wealthiest or most politically connected Venezuelans, many longtime supporters of the Socialist Party are taking to the streets to protest the Maduro regime. At least 120 people have been killed in clashes between anti-government demonstrators and security forces since nationwide protests kicked off in late April.
The unrest has focused international attention on Venezuela’s appalling economic fundamentals, which have been destroyed by years of erratic management by Maduro and his predecessor, the late socialist icon Hugo Chavez.
Although there have been no official economic figures for almost two years, experts estimate that Venezuela’s economy contracted by nearly 20 percent in 2016, reports Reuters. Gross domestic product in 2017 is about 35 percent smaller than it was in 2013, according to Harvard economist and Venezuela native Ricardo Hausmann.
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