Leaked Government Study Reveals Extent of Shortage Crisis in Venezuela

By: Sabrina Martín - @SabrinaMartinR - Sep 21, 2015, 12:22 pm
According to a leaked government report, at least 15 food items and 26 cleaning and personal-care products are unavailable in Venezuela.
According to a leaked government report, at least 15 food items and 26 cleaning and personal-care products are unavailable in Venezuela. (La Patilla)

EspañolFebruary 2014 was the last time the Venezuelan government released official figures concerning the lack of basic products in the country.

However, thanks to a leaked study conducted by the Office of the Vice President, Venezuelans are now learning their government’s own account of the shortage crisis.

The document, dated August 14 and released by local media on September 16, reveals that at least 15 food items and 26 cleaning and personal-care products are unavailable in Venezuelan stores. In most cases, the shortage rate surpasses 70 percent.

Although the document indicates that it is the 19th such study that the government has conducted in the country, it is the first to have been accessed by the press. Unlike other reports based on surveys and interviews, the data in the government’s report comes from direct observations in 312 establishments across 19 states.

The leaked charts confirm that at least 15 food items are virtually absent from market shelves. Pasteurized fruit juices are the least scarce (43 percent), while fruit compotes lead the shortage list (92 percent).

Furthermore, the study finds that 18 personal-care products are mostly unavailable to Venezuelans. Researchers, for example, could not locate baby diapers in 96 percent of the establishments observed, and only found toothpaste in 58 percent of those stores.

As for cleaning products, all eight of the items that researchers surveyed were found to be scarce in varying degrees. While laundry detergent remains the most widely available cleaning product, with a scarcity rate of 67 percent, dishwasher soap cannot be found in 88 percent of stores.

Researchers also found long lines both inside and outside 67 percent of state-run stores, and 66 percent of private businesses, that they visited.

In February 2015, the Venezuelan government arrested the CEO of supermarket chain Día Día, Manuel Morales, and accused him of provoking the large queues outside his stores amid the growing scarcity problem. However, according to this official government report, the issues involving the shortage crisis and long supermarket lines persist.

Economic War?

The report notes that the Nicolás Maduro administration undertook the study because of the alleged “economic war” that the country’s private sector is waging against the government by hoarding and smuggling goods.

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Óscar Meza, director of the Venezuelan Center for Documentation and Social Analysis (Cendas), tells the PanAm Post that the leak proves that the government has avoided disclosing the results of previous studies because they would expose their “failed socialist model.”

According to Meza, the government refuses to publicly recognize that the shortage problem even exists. He adds that studies like this further invalidate the notion of an “economic war,” since they demonstrate that state-run stores are equally affected by the shortage crisis.

Without corrective measures, Venezuelans are set to face “more hunger, hardships, and misery,” Meza warns.

Rising Costs

On top of scarcity issues, Venezuelans must also deal with the rising cost of food. On Thursday, September 17, Cendas reported that the monthly cost of an average Venezuelan family’s basic-food needs rose 19 percent in July.

According to their estimates, a Venezuelan family must earn $65,013.54 Bs. — roughly 8.8 minimum-wage salaries — to cover their essentials.

Cendas also reports that the overall shortage rate in the country reached 36.2 percent in August, and says bread is the latest product to disappear from store shelves. According to Meza, of the 58 products that Cendas studied last month, 49 of them are scarce, including 21 products that are considered basic necessities.

Translated by Rebeca Morla.

Sabrina Martín Sabrina Martín

Sabrina Martín is a Venezuelan journalist, commentator, and editor based in Valencia with experience in corporate communication. Follow @SabrinaMartinR.

Venezuelan Opposition Defy Intimidation with Nationwide Rallies

By: Pedro García Otero - Sep 21, 2015, 9:29 am
Over 5,000 people marched in Caracas to demand freedom for Leopoldo López and other political prisoners. (@nanasuarezulloa)

EspañolOn Saturday, opposition activists took to the streets in 29 cities across Venezuela, and 15 other cities abroad, to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López, who was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison earlier this month. The protests also kick off the opposition's campaign efforts heading into legislative elections scheduled for December 6. If victorious in the election, opposition candidates have promised to pass an amnesty law that would release López and 77 other political prisoners from jail. "The first law that we will pass is amnesty for Leopoldo López and political prisoners," Henry Ramos Allup, leader of the Democratic Action party and legislative candidate in Caracas, said during the demonstration in the capital. "Then, [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro and his ministers should get ready, because we are going to question all of them to find out what happened to the resources in this country." "They better not try any of their tricks, because we can and we will use all democratic tools within the Constitution to restore democracy and the balance of power," Ramos Allup said. The general coordinator for López's Popular Will party, Freddy Guevara, added that "the Constitution provides four procedures to achieve political change, and we can propose any of them from Congress." Ramos Allup also dismissed the rumors that Maduro may suspend the elections or attempt a self-coup to dissolve the National Assembly. Maduro's government "has neither the muscle nor the glands" to pull it off, he said. A spokesman for the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) told the PanAm Post that they are confident they will win the 88 seats necessary to secure a majority in the legislature, considering the 20 to 40 point lead most opposition candidates currently enjoy in the polls. The MUD official says they are focusing primarily in 44 out of the 87 electoral circuits in which the opposition has never won, especially in places where previous elections have been close."We can look for a wider majority [in these places]," he said. The spokesman adds that other MUD officials are even more optimistic and believe the opposition can secure 100 seats in the National Assembly, putting them close to the 101 seats necessary to replace Supreme Court justices, the attorney and comptroller general, and members of the National Council of Elections (CNE), who the opposition have frequently accused of "Chavista bias." [adrotate group="8"] However, the current Venezuelan electoral system tends to favor small districts where Chavista candidates have traditionally done well, as opposed to big cities, where the opposition garners more support. Therefore, winning a greater number of votes throughout the country does not necessarily translate to a majority in Congress. For Venezuela Jesús Torrealba, secretary general of the Democratic Unity Roundtable, reiterated on Saturday that the Venezuelan opposition's strategy for victory is "the street and the vote." The large demonstrations that took place in Caracas were replicated throughout the country, according to Torrealba. "We are repeating [these demonstrations] in all of Venezuela and throughout the world," he said. Venezuelans living in Madrid, Miami, and Bogotá also reportedly marched on Saturday to the demand Leopoldo López's release, a request that has also been made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions. Local residents could only follow Saturday's events over social media, using the hashtag #YoSiSalgo19S (I will go out on September 19), since traditional media outlets in the country largely ignored the demonstrations. "Venezuelans gather in Madrid in front of the Venezuelan embassy." "Venezuelans Abroad — Venezuelans protest at Bay Park in Miami." Translated by Adam Dubove.

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