By Eyanir Chinea and Maria Ramirez
CARACAS/CIUDAD GUAYANA, Venezuela (Reuters) – There was no way Jose Ramon Garcia, a food transporter in Venezuela, could afford new tires for his van at $350 each.
Whether he opted to pay in U.S. currency or in the devalued local bolivar currency at the equivalent black market price, Garcia would have had to save up for years.
Though used to expensive repairs, this one was too much and put him out of business. “Repairs cost an arm and a leg in Venezuela,” said the now-unemployed 42-year-old Garcia, who has a wife and two children to support in the southern city of Guayana.
“There’s no point keeping bolivars.”
For a decade and a half, strict exchange controls have severely limited access to dollars. A black market in hard currency has spread in response, and as once-sky-high oil revenue runs dry, Venezuela’s economy is in free-fall.
The practice adopted by gourmet and design stores in Caracas over the last couple of years to charge in dollars to a select group of expatriates or Venezuelans with access to greenbacks is fast spreading.
Food sellers, dental and medical clinics, and others are starting to charge in dollars or their black market equivalent – putting many basic goods and services out of reach for a large number of Venezuelans.
According to the opposition-led National Assembly, November’s rise in prices topped academics’ traditional benchmark for hyperinflation of more than 50 percent a month – and could end the year at 2,000 percent. The government has not published inflation data for more than a year.
“I can’t think in bolivars anymore, because you have to give a different price every hour,” said Yoselin Aguirre, 27, who makes and sells jewelry in the Paraguana peninsula and has recently pegged prices to the dollar. “To survive, you have to dollarize.”
The socialist government of the late president Hugo Chavez in 2003 brought in the strict controls in order to curb capital flight, as the wealthy sought to move money out of Venezuela after a coup attempt and major oil strike the previous year.
Oil revenue was initially able to bolster artificial exchange rates, though the black market grew and now is becoming unmanageable for the government.
TRIM THE TREE WITH BOLIVARS
President Nicolas Maduro has maintained his predecessor’s policies on capital controls. Yet, the spread between the strongest official rate, of some 10 bolivars per dollar, and the black market rate, of around 110,000 per dollar, is now huge.
While sellers see a shift to hard currency as necessary, buyers sometimes blame them for speculating.
Rafael Vetencourt, 55, a steel worker in Ciudad Guayana, needed a prostate operation priced at $250.
“We don’t earn in dollars. It’s abusive to charge in dollars!” said Vetencourt, who had to decimate his savings to pay for the surgery.
In just one year, Venezuela’s currency has weakened 97.5 per cent against the greenback, meaning $1,000 of local currency purchased then would be worth just $25 now.
Maduro blames black market rate-publishing websites such as DolarToday for inflating the numbers, part of an “economic war” he says is designed by the opposition and Washington to topple him.
On Venezuela’s borders with Brazil and Colombia, the prices of imported oil, eggs and wheat flour vary daily in line with the black market price for bolivars.
In an upscale Caracas market, cheese-filled arepas, the traditional breakfast made with corn flour, increased 65 percent in price in just two weeks, according to tracking by Reuters reporters. In the same period, a kilogram of ham jumped a whopping 171 percent.
The runaway prices have dampened Christmas celebrations, which this season were characterized by shortages of pine trees and toys, as well as meat, chicken and cornmeal for the preparation of typical dishes.
In one grim festive joke, a Christmas tree in Maracaibo, the country’s oil capital and second city, was decorated with virtually worthless low-denomination bolivar bills.
Most Venezuelans, earning just $5 a month at the black market rate, are nowhere near being able to save hard currency.
“How do I do it? I earn in bolivars and have no way to buy foreign currency,” said Cristina Centeno, a 31-year-old teacher who, like many, was seeking remote work online before Christmas in order to bring in some hard currency.
(Additional reporting by Andreina Aponte and Leon Wietfeld in Caracas, Mircely Guanipa in Maracay, Anggy Polanco in San Cristobal, Lenin Danieri in Maracaibo; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Leslie Adler)
Trump judges…….The Purge!
I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six.
That great lyric from Ice Cube has more bite and meaning in the run up to the 2020 election. Now we have the investigation of the investigators. The Mueller investigation and everything it has encompassed is now being scrutinized. We are finally looking at indictments and guilty pleas from the corrupt cabal that tried to bring down, frame, jail and impeach a duly elected, INNOCENT president and anyone in his sphere. Getting to the point of investigating the investigators has been a long hard slog.
We did not foresee how really deep and treacherous the swamp really was. You could investigate, indict and try someone like a Hillary Clinton for example, and someone of authority in that chain is a corrupt actor from the Deep State and you will then see the guilty party skate free. Or you can have a completely innocent Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, George Papodopoulos railroaded by a corrupt judge. The Michael Flynn case is the most glaring. The DOJ has dropped the case and charges against him and in an unprecedented move the judge does not drop the case, he extends it as if he is the prosecutor.
So there is a light at the end of the tunnel my friends. Donald Trump has been appointing a record number of federal judges. This is a brilliant move and somewhat frustrating and time consuming. But there is a method to the madness. Why investigate, indict and try just for a Deep State judge to let the guilty party walk free? Donald Trump has appointed over 300 judges and counting. More will be appointed to the bench and now there is a more likely chance when the guilty parties are tried, there will be justice. So there is a silver lining in this swamp covered cloud.
By Michael Ameer
The reckoning of the fake news media.
Karma, the sweet smell of poetic justice, the bully gets punched in the nose in the end! Fake news finally gets counted out and David to the Goliath is a teenager named Nicholas Sandmann the MAGA hat wearing unassuming media slayer.
Nicholas Sandmann and his legal team has announced a settlement with The Washington Post on their $250 Million dollar suit. This comes also on the heels of the multi-million dollar suit against CNN. They have stated 2 down and six to go. Here is their list:
NBC, CBS, ABC, NYT, Gannett, Rolling Stones.
Many have tried to get the media companies to report fairly but even Billionaire hardball players like Donald Trump are impotent against the media smear machines. Politicians, celebrities and any adults in the public realm have diminished rights when it comes to defending their reputation against lies and attacks from media behemoths. This is a sad state of affairs and what’s lead to the monumental rise of fake propaganda news.
In steps Nicholas Sandmann who was wrongly accused by many media outlets when the story broke of belligerent teens harassing a Native American man beating a drum in a rally. There were duel rallies in the area. Since the teen was wearing a MAGA hat the news media or better yet fake news media went into overdrive bashing the kids. When the whole video was viewed any honest person could see the kids did nothing wrong in the whole confrontation. But this blatant truth means nothing to fake news. They hate Trump so lies are okay as long as it hurts their intended target. Nicholas Sandmann is a normal American well behaved teen. With him being a teen or minor the laws give him protections not afforded a public figure. So he could aggressively defend himself with a good legal team. Now truth and justice has a chance to rule and not the mob rule of the left. If this could happen more often we would have a more honest press. But we know they have financial donors and backers that pay them to spread these lies so we will have to see what is coming down the pike in hopes there will be more honesty in reporting. But don’t hold your breathe.
By Michael Ameer
Should the media and politicians be held responsible for fraudulent hydroxychloroquine reports?
Saying a drug that clearly works, doesn’t work is Trump Derangement Syndrome beyond comprehension.
The Lancet Study on Hydroxychloroquine was fraught with errors and incomplete data. It was thrown together to let the world know that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work. Well that study was retracted. A Henry Ford Health System study found the drug helped patients with COVID-19. Just as the president was saying. Trump mentioned HCQ and the collective mainstream media went into overdrive to prove him wrong. And once again Trump accused of lie of the century turns out to be right. He was clearly right in the beginning. The media said the drug could cause harm if not used correctly. That could also be said about aspirin or any drug.
Taking this derangement one step further was governors making it hard to get HCQ and banning it in some places from use. Now we know in hindsight the drug works and these politicians and media companies as CNN are libel for deaths of Coronavirus patients that died when a life saving drug was readily available in stockpile. Also the governors sending the elderly with COVID-19 into nursing homes with the most vulnerable also caused many unnecessary deaths. Weren’t we told we had to save our grandparents? If we loved them don’t visit them to be safe? So why would governors send COVID-19 patients to nursing homes when they (New York) mainly was provided thousands of empty hospital beds on the navy ship and the convention center?
I have been following these people long enough to know these things are not an accident. Germany and Israel sent the United States millions of tablets of HCQ. They were at the ready and cheap. It’s been used for malaria since the 1960’s so the side effects have been tested, it is safe. Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister was saved with HCQ. Thousands around the world have been saved with this drug. So we must ask the question when will the media and politicians be dragged into a court of law for their negligent reckless reporting?
By Michael Ameer