Venezuela Isn’t Special, It’s a Perfectly Normal Example of Successful SocialismPosted: May 21, 2016 | |
Caracas (AFP) – Marc Burleigh reports: If a visitor to Venezuela is unfortunate enough to pay for anything with a foreign credit card, the eye-watering cost might suggest they were in a city pricier than Tokyo or Zurich.
A hamburger sold for 1,700 Venezuelan bolivares is $170, or a 69,000-bolivar hotel room is $6,900 a night, based on the official rate of 10 bolivares for $1.
But of course no merchant is pricing at the official rate imposed under currency controls. It’s the black market rate of 1,000 bolivares per dollar that’s applied.
But for Venezuelans paid in hyperinflation-hit bolivares, and living in an economy relying on mostly imported goods or raw materials, conditions are unthinkably expensive.
Even for the middle class, most of it sliding into poverty, hamburgers and hotels are out-of-reach excesses.
“Everybody is knocked low,” Michael Leal, a 34-year-old manager of an eyewear store in Caracas, told AFP. “We can’t breathe.”
In Chacao, a middle-class neighborhood in the capital, office workers lined up outside a nut store to buy the cheapest lunch they could afford. Nearby restaurants were all but empty.
Superficially it looked like the of any other major Latin American city: skyscrapers, dense traffic, pedestrians in short sleeves bustling along the sidewalks.
But look closely and you can see the economic malaise. Many stores, particularly those that sold electronics, were shuttered.
“It’s horrible now,” said Marta Gonzalez, the 69-year-old manager of a corner beauty products store.
“Nobody is buying anything really. Just food,” she said as a male customer used a debit card to pay for a couple of razor blades.
A sign above the register said “We don’t accept credit cards.”
– Lines for necessities –
An upmarket shopping center nearby boasted a leafy rooftop terrace, a spacious Hard Rock cafe, chain stores for Zara, Swarovski and Armani Exchange.
They were all virtually deserted except for bored sales staff.
Instead a line of around 200 people was waiting patiently in front of a pharmacy….(read more)