News - May 21, 2015

Meanwhile in ... Venezuela

In the news: Food, medication and machinery have become scarce in recession-hit Venezuela. The shortage of motorcycle parts has even become so acute that bikers are being killed for their vehicles.

Comment by Claudio Valero Jimenez, PhD student in Genetics and Entomology

The way the country is ruled is nonsensical, economically speaking. Last year the inflation rate was 63.6%.When I went there in January you could not find toilet paper anywhere. My aunt managed to get some through contacts. She had to smuggle it out of the shop through the back door because toilet paper has become so precious that carrying it could get you robbed.

Products of which the government regulated the prices, such as rice, are very hard to find and you’ll have to wait in long queues to buy them. Because inflation is high, but the prices of these products were fixed many years ago, these goods are super-cheap. If people now manage to get their hands on them, they usually smuggle them to Colombia, where prices are higher. All regulated products are either being smuggled or sold on the black market. People who are desperate to buy milk for their babies, for example, pay high prices on the black market.

Just last week, my aunt’s friend’s car was stolen, probably because they needed spare parts for that type of car. It is senseless to report this kind of crime to the police, because they will never find the car and there is no real law enforcement. I heard that 90% of the crimes in Venezuela go unpunished.

Caracas is the third most dangerous city in the world. Every week people are killed, but unless you are famous it is not really newsworthy anymore. Four and a half years ago, when I was at university, I could stay out until 2 in the morning, and it was already bad then. But now you don’t want to be outside after dark anymore.