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Venezuela Government shuts down as citizens suffer hunger, blackouts


Government of Venezuela brought some heavy measures in order to rationalize. The country is now on the verge of an economic breakdown.

In the last few weeks the government have deliberately downsized by shutting down most of its offices 6 days a week. Electricity and water are being rationed and many areas of the country are barely surviving as a result.

Many people cannot make international calls from their phones because of a dispute between the government and phone companies over currency regulations and rates.

Coca-Cola Femsa, the Mexican company that bottles Coke in the country, has even said it was halting production of sugary soft drinks because it was running out of sugar.

Last week, protests turned violent in parts of the country where demonstrators demanded empty supermarkets be resupplied. And on Friday, the government said it would continue its truncated workweek for an additional 15 days.

“There’s been plenty of problems, but one thing I haven’t seen until now is protests simply to get food,” said David Smilde, a Caracas-based analyst for the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group, referring to the demonstrations last week.

The growing economic crisis — fueled by low prices for oil, the country’s main export; a drought that has crippled Venezuela’s ability to generate hydroelectric power; and a long decline in manufacturing and agricultural production — has turned into an intensely political one for President Nicolás Maduro. This month, he declared a state of emergency, his second this year, and ordered military exercises, citing foreign threats.

But the president looks increasingly encircled.

American officials say the multiplying crises have led Mr. Maduro to fall out of favor with members of his own socialist party, who they believe may turn on him, leading to chaos in the streets.

Old allies like Brazil, whose leftist president, Dilma Rousseff, was removed this month pending an impeachment trial, are now openly criticizing Venezuela. José Mujica, the leftist former president of Uruguay last week called Mr. Maduro “crazy like a goat.”

The regional tensions came to a head last week when Mr. Maduro went on television to chide the Organization of American States, which has criticized Venezuela’s handling of the economic and political crises. Mr. Maduro took aim at Luis Almagro, its secretary general, calling him a “longtime traitor” and implying he was a spy.

Venezuela’s government says the problems are the result of an “economic war” being waged by elites who are hoarding supplies, as well as the American government’s efforts to destabilize the country.

But most economists agree that Venezuela is suffering from years of economic mismanagement, including over-dependence on oil and price controls that led many businesses to stop making products.

Some Venezuelans are channeling their frustrations into demonstrations against the government. Mr. Maduro’s opponents, who now control the National Assembly, have been staging weekly protests in support of the recall referendum.

Last Wednesday, protesters clashed with police officers who fired tear gas at the demonstrations and were attacked with bottles and rocks.

“The economic situation of this country is collapse,” Pablo Parada, a law student, who was participating last week in a hunger strike in front of the O.A.S. office in Caracas. “There are people who go hungry now.”

Mr. Parada said the purpose of his hunger strike was to pressure the O.A.S. to push Venezuelan officials to allow the referendum to take place this year, the only way he felt the country could recover.

There is often little traffic in Caracas simply because so few people, either for lack of money or work, are going out.


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