Venezuela is no longer a country with a government, institutions and a civil society. It’s a geographic area terrorized by a criminal enterprise that pretends to govern, with a civil society made up of two sets of people: accomplices and victims.
More than 30 million of the latter.
The Hugo Chavez-led looting spree began in 2000. By “looting,” I mean fraudulent government contracts, a celebration of bribery, phantom payrolls across all government ministries, bogus government grant programs, the sacking of Venezuela’s gold reserves and a massive currency exchange scam.
More than $1 trillion has disappeared — some of it wasted on social programs that produced nothing — and a staggering amount has ended up in bank accounts in Andorra, Panama, New York, Hong Kong and Switzerland.
And the pillaging has turned Venezuela into a dystopian landscape. There are shortages of every imaginable foodstuff and basic necessity; diseases once thought eradicated are back with a vengeance; and a crime wave that has given Caracas the highest murder rate in the world.
Loving parents are putting their children up for adoption because they have nothing to feed them; the elderly are starving; patients with treatable conditions are dying in hospitals that lack basic medicine like insulin and oxygen, where vital equipment has been pilfered and emergency rooms operate without electricity. In a gruesome twist, even the morgues can’t handle the number of unclaimed bodies, so they rot in hallways.
In one city just before Christmas, more than 80 percent of supermarkets, bodegas and food stores were looted. The ransacking spread to private homes. Meanwhile, the government does little to stop the disorder. The more chaos there is, the less President Nicolas Maduro needs to worry about antigovernment protests or marches.
Meanwhile, those in power can focus on what they do best: looting the country’s natural-resource wealth and manufacturing and trafficking illegal narcotics. In fact, Maduro just upped his game by appointing Tareck el-Aissami, a drug kingpin, as vice president.