Venezuela collapse: looting, hunger, blackouts

Looted grocery store in San Cristobal, Venezuela

Preface. Venezuela is experiencing a double whammy of drought and low oil prices, which has lead to blackouts and inability to import food, ultimately due to their oil production peaking in 1997.  The same fate awaits the U.S.  So when reading this and related posts, keep in mind that the ways these people survive may be useful for you to know someday as well.

Related posts:

And Mexico may be the next to collapse, as you can read here.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


Lorente, M. 2019. Venezuela returns to ‘Middle Ages’ during power outages. Yahoo news. 

Walking for hours, making oil lamps, bearing water. For Venezuelans today, suffering under a new nationwide blackout that has lasted days, it’s like being thrown back to life centuries ago.

El Avila, a mountain that towers over Caracas, has become a place where families gather with buckets and jugs to fill up with water, wash dishes and scrub clothes. The taps in their homes are dry from lack of electricity to the city’s water pumps.  “We’re forced to get water from sources that obviously aren’t completely hygienic. But it’s enough for washing or doing the dishes,” said one resident, Manuel Almeida.

Because of the long lines of people, the activity can take hours of waiting.

Elsewhere, locals make use of cracked water pipes. But they still need to boil the water, or otherwise purify it.  “We’re going to bed without washing ourselves,” said one man, Pedro Jose, a 30-year-old living in a poorer neighborhood in the west of the capital.

Some shops seeing an opportunity have hiked the prices of bottles of water and bags of ice to between $3 and $5 — a fortune in a country where the monthly minimum salary is the equivalent of $5.50.

Better-off Venezuelans, those with access to US dollars, have rushed to fill hotels that have giant generators and working restaurants.

For others, preserving fresh food is a challenge. Finding it is even more difficult. The blackout has forced most shops to close.

We share food” among family members and friends, explained Coral Munoz, 61, who counts herself lucky to have dollars.

For Kelvin Donaire, who lives in the poor Petare district, survival is complicated.  He walks for more than an hour to the bakery where he works in the upmarket Los Palos Grandes area. “At least I’m able to take a loaf back home,” Donaire said.

Many inhabitants have taken to salting meat to preserve it without working refrigerators.

Others, more desperate, scour trash cans for food scraps. They are hurt most by having to live in a country where basic food and medicine has become scarce and out of reach because of rocketing hyperinflation.

The latest blackout this week also knocked out communications.  According to NetBlocks, an organization monitoring telecoms networks, 85% of Venezuela has lost connection.

In stores, cash registers no longer work and electronic payment terminals are blanked out. That’s serious in Venezuela, where even bread is bought by card because of lack of cash.  Some clients, trusted ones, are able to leave written IOUs.

With Caracas’s subway shut down, getting around the city is a trail, with choices between walking for miles, lining up in the out-sized hope of getting on one of the rare and badly overcrowded and dilapidated buses or managing to get fuel for a vehicle.  Pedro Jose said bus tickets have nearly doubled in price. 

As night casts Caracas into darkness, families light their homes as best they can. “We make lamps that burn gasoline, or oil, or kerosene — any type of fuel,” explained Lizbeth Morin, 30.

“We’ve returned to the Middle Ages.”

December 17, 2018 Planet money podcast: Bonus indicator: the measure of a tragedy

It’s hard to understand how bad a country is doing with figures like inflation rate, unemployment rate, and their minimum wage. A better way to understand a nation’s living standards is how many calories a person could afford to buy a day earning a minimum wage if they spent all of their money on food — that is — the food with the most calories, which in Venezuela has sometimes been pasta or flour, and today is the yucca plant.

Venezuelans could by 57,000 calories in 2012 with one day’s wages, and several dozen eggs.

But today a person can afford just 900 calories or 2 eggs. It would take a Venezuelan 6 weeks to be able to afford one Big Mac earning minimum wage.

Since the average person needs 2,000 calories a day, as well as calories to feed their family, and also housing, clothing, medicine, and so on, it’s not surprising that the average Venezuelan lost 24 pounds last year, and that Venezuela probably has the highest murder rate in the world.

The result is that at least 10% of Venezuelans have emigrated, nearly 3 million people. If that many proportionally left the U.S. we’d have 30 million people fleeing to Canada and Mexico and elsewhere.

July 16, 2018. Keith Johnson. How Venezuela Struck it poor.

…”Venezuela’s murder rate, meanwhile, now surpasses that of Honduras and El Salvador, which formerly had the world’s highest levels, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory. Blackouts are a near-daily occurrence, and many people live without running water. According to media reports, schoolchildren and oil workers have begun passing out from hunger, and sick Venezuelans have scoured veterinary offices for medicine. Malaria, measles, and diphtheria have returned with a vengeance, and the millions of Venezuelans fleeing the country — more than 4 million, according to the International Crisis Group — are spreading the diseases across the region, as well as straining resources and goodwill.”

…”Thanks to their geology, Venezuela’s oil fields have enormous decline rates, meaning the country needs to spend more heavily than other petrostates just to keep production steady. “

2017-10-22 Oil Quality Issues Could Bankrupt Venezuela.  The next few weeks for Venezuela will be crucial, as it struggles to meet a huge stack of debt payments. Reports that the nation’s oil production is experiencing deteriorating quality raises a new cause for concern for the crumbling South American nation.Reuters reported that its oil shipments are “soiled with high levels of water, salt or metals that can cause problems for refineries”, which has led to $200 million in cancellations of oil contracts, making Venezuela even less able to make debt payments, since oil is the only source of revenue barely keeping the nation afloat. Many experienced oil workers have fled the country to find food and escape violence.  Because of these problems, and Trump imposed sanctions, U.S. imports have dropped from roughly 700,000 barrels per day to 250,000 bpd.

2017-5-2 Venezuela Is Heading for a Soviet-Style Collapse. A few lessons from the last time an oil economy crashed catastrophically

2017-2-27 ASPO Peak Oil Review: A new survey shows that 75% of Venezuelans may have lost an average of 19 pounds in the last year as widespread food shortages continue. Nearly a third of the population are now eating two meals a day or less. The survey also shows that the average shopper spends 35 hours a month waiting in line to buy food and other necessities. A sense of hopelessness has engulfed the country, and most no longer have an incentive or the strength to protest against the government and its policies as was happening two years ago. Government roundups of opposition politicians continue. Venezuela is clearly well on its way to becoming a failed state.

2016-11-1 Venezuela is telling hungry city dwellers to grow their own food. Washington Post

2016-10-21 Planet Money Podcast #731: How Venezuela Imploded

2016-8-23 Venezuela’s latest response to food shortages: Ban lines outside bakeries

2016-05-04 Hungry Venezuelans Hunt Dogs, Cats, Pigeons as Food Runs Out. Economic Crisis and Food Shortages Lead to Looting and Hunting Stray Animals  

Sabrina Martín. April 27, 2016. Looting On the Rise As Venezuela Runs Out of Food, Electricity. PanAmPost.

Food Producers Alert They Have Only 15 Days Left of Inventory amid Rampant Inflation

“Despair and violence is taking over Venezuela. The economic crisis sweeping the nation means people have to withstand widespread shortages of staple products, medicine, and food.  So when the Maduro administration began rationing electricity this week, leaving entire cities in the dark for up to 4 hours every day, discontent gave way to social unrest.

On April 26, people took to the streets in three Venezuelan states, looting stores to find food.

Maracaibo, in the western state of Zulia, is the epicenter of thefts: on Tuesday alone, Venezuelans raided pharmacies, shopping malls, supermarkets, and even trucks with food in seven different areas of the city.

Although at least nine people were arrested, and 2,000 security officers were deployed in the state, Zulia’s Secretary of Government Giovanny Villalobos asked citizens not to leave their homes. “There are violent people out there that can harm you,” he warned.

In Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, citizens reported looting in at least three areas of the city. Twitter users reported that thefts occurred throughout the night in the industrial zone of La California, Campo Rico, and Buena Vista.  The same happened in Carabobo, a state in central Venezuela.

Supermarkets employees from Valencia told the PanAm Post that besides no longer receiving the same amount of food as before, they must deal with angry Venezuelans who come to the stores only to find out there’s little to buy.

Purchases in supermarkets are rationed through a fingerprint system that does not allow Venezuelans to acquire the same regulated food for two weeks.

Due to the country’s mangled economy, millions must stand in long lines for hours just to purchase basic products, which many resell  for extra income as the country’s minimum wage is far from enough to cover a family’s needs.

On Wednesday, the Venezuelan Chamber of Food (Cavidea) said in a statement that most companies only have 15 days worth of stocked food.

According to the union, the production of food will continue to dwindle because raw materials as well as local and foreign inputs are depleted.

In the statement, Cavidea reported that they are 300 days overdue on payments to suppliers and it’s been 200 days since the national  government last authorized the purchase of dollars under the foreign currency control system.

The latest Survey of Living Conditions (Encovi) showed that more than 3 million Venezuelans eat only twice a day or less. The rampart inflation and low wages make it increasingly more difficult for people to afford food.

“Fruits and vegetables have disappeared from shopping lists. What you buy is what fills your stomach more: 40 percent of the basic groceries is made up of corn flour, rice, pasta, and fat”.

But not even that incomplete diet Venezuelans can live on because those food products are hard to come by. Since their prices are controlled by the government, they are scarce and more people demand them.

The survey also notes the rise of diseases such as gastritis, with an increase of 25 percent in 2015, followed by poisoning (24.11 percent), parasites (17.86 percent), and bacteria (10.71 percent).

The results of this study are consistent with the testimony of Venezuelan women, who told the PanAm Post that because “everything is so expensive” that they prefer to eat twice a day and leave lunch for their children. That way they can make do with the little portions they can afford.”


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3 Responses to Venezuela collapse: looting, hunger, blackouts

  1. richard benton says:

    you are leaving out the ongoing and deliberate sabotage of the government by right wing upper govt in collusion with upper class wants south America returned to its status as a subservient slave state-especially its oil. Mangled economy? By whom exactly. It is very complicated. Everybody should read dimitry orlovs collection of essays-emergency eyewash

  2. By 2022, the world needs what is equal to another Saudi Arabia’s daily oil production capacity of 2015 to be extra-added into the daily inflow of the global energy market, just to keep the style of our world going.

    Given oil reserves always deplete over time, and Saudi Arabia, Russia and others are themselves depleting by the day, failing the baseline of 2015 – this might never be achievable.

    What humans and Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand of Economics can do responding to fossil fuels’ Energy resource depletion?

    Knocking down more nations off of fossil fuels supplies and consumption, maybe?

    The more the shortage of oil supplies is, the more nations are to be taken off of fossil fuels.

    For example, to spare 1,157,861 barrel of oil daily, merely covering Y/Y global oil consumption growth from 2015 to 2022, below is an example, in 2015 figures, of how many people need to be taken off-oil – every year, according to a 2015-published Peak Oil Musical Chairs game hypothesis.

    When no people left in a nation to take off-oil, the hypothesis creeps to other nation[s] (i.e. Yemen, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Angola, Kuwait, Algeria, Russia, China, Canada, US, etc)

    What nations are to be taken off of fossil fuels first?

    Helpless oil producing nations, preventing them from domestically consuming what they produce, sparing it for and into the global Energy market.

    Is this hypothesis calculable?

    Yes, by working out the total amount of global shortage, over what oil producing nations produce, divided by oil consumption per capita in any of those nations.

    When Venezuela’s oil is heavy and it needs lighter oil supplies from somewhere else to enable it as fuel – it is no longer an excess energy reserve, but an energy sink!

    Energy supplies, required for mixing light with heavy oils, don’t travel on the flying carpet. They need energy to be burned in that process. The energy burned is several orders of magnitude greater than the energy the supplies contain, when wear and tear eating the industrial base is taken into consideration.

    When a bomb detonates in Baghdad, the city goes to bed earlier and oil consumption in the community drops. Iraq plays the Peak Oil Musical Chairs game very well!

    When clashes with the Yellow Vest demonstrations in Paris happen, the City reduces its activity and movement, leading to less oil consumption. The Yellow Vest movement loves the Peak Oil Musical Chairs hypothesis!

    When a state of the art Boeing 737 Max crashes, more people, unconsciously, change their air travel plans and habits, leading to the end of the age of the air travel-for-the-masses. Boeing miscommunications love the Peak Oil Musical Chairs game, too!

    When a mass shooting in New Zealand happens, the population starts to talk and rest more than moves. Shocks in any community loves the Peak Oil Musical Chairs game, as well!

    From now on, see what you read in the News through the lens of the Peak Oil Musical Chairs game and you’ll be stunned what miracles Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand of Economics can do!

    Other predictions, the 2015-published hypothesis has made, is that as crude oil supplies deplete to scarcity, the Black Energy market will be replacing the classic Energy market, leaving it just churning hypnotic and colourful Energy Reports.

    These reports will never allow you a clear understanding of the real quantity and grade of what any country is physically producing, importing or exporting of Energy supplies – an indication of an escalated transition into a global black Energy market and Economics.

    The hypothesis inspires that the POMC game will engulf all nations, over time, leading the world into a highly contrasted Two-Tier World configuration.

    Country: Iraq
    Population: 34,000,000
    OCPC (barrel/daily): 0.02229
    Required yearly off-oil percentage over entire population: 84.40%
    Minimum population required to be taken off-oil yearly: 21,983,841.

    Country: Libya
    Population: 6,253,452
    OCPC (barrel/daily): 0.05148
    Required yearly off-oil percentage over entire population: 15.50%
    Minimum population required to be taken off-oil yearly: 1,750,717.

    Country: Syria
    Population: 21,986,615
    OCPC (barrel/daily): 0.01296
    Required yearly off-oil percentage over entire population: 100%
    Minimum population required to be taken off-oil yearly: 21,986,615.

    Country: Nigeria
    Population: 178,516,904
    OCPC (barrel/daily): 0.00164
    Required yearly off-oil percentage over entire population: 100%
    Minimum population required to be taken off-oil yearly: 178,516,904.

    Minimum total global population required to be taken off-oil yearly, from 2015 to 2022, that have enjoyed an OCPC equal to the nations above: 224,238,077.