Venezuela’s government has nearly exhausted its foreign exchange reserves and its citizens have resorted to mining bitcoin and fashioning ad hoc neighborhood currencies to facilitate day-to-day transactions.
But the cash crunch that has helped worsen the country’s economic crisis is finally forcing the government to make an unusual request of its trading partners, including pharmaceutical companies from which the government buys medicine for the country’s hospitals: Would they accept payment in diamonds, gold or other precious stones?
According to the Wall Street Journal, companies were baffled by Venezuela’s offer. As for whether they accepted it: That’s not clear.
The proposed exchange perplexed the pharma representatives, whose companies had no policies on accepting precious gems and metals as payment, according to three people familiar with the meeting last month where Venezuela’s health minister made the offer.
While it isn’t clear if any of the companies accepted it, the proposal underscores how Venezuela’s economic collapse is forcing President Nicolás Maduro’s embattled administration to improvise to pay for goods as severe dollar shortages push the country toward a barter society.
As WSJ pointed out, using commodities as payment isn’t uncommon for large global companies trading in mining or oil. But it’s almost unheard of as a way to settle debts to other sectors like pharmaceuticals. The trend also mirrors the rise of bartering on the streets of many Venezuelan towns and cities.
In this capital city’s sprawling Petare slum, residents like 25-year-old baker Norvis Bracho use Facebook groups—some with more than 100,000 members—to post pictures of sugar and corn flour offered in exchange for beans or blood-pressure pills.
“This is how we get by every day,” said Mr. Bracho, a member of 13 Facebook and WhatsApp networks where he trades everything from bread to computer parts.
On a recent day, Mr. Bracho’s family, thrilled to see hard-to-find Coca-Cola sold on the streets, rushed to purchase a dozen 2-liter bottles with a debit card.
“This will come in handy to exchange later,” his aunt, Ruth Villarreal, said.
The Venezuela bolivar has depreciated more than 97.5% against the dollar over the past year. And economists expect annualized inflation to surpass 2,000% during the coming year, even as the price of oil has steadily crept higher.
Given the country’s opaque finances, it isn’t clear how much Venezuela holds in certified precious metals and stones.
The Socialist government unilaterally pulled out of the international Kimberley Process, which certifies the origins of diamonds, for eight years until it re-entered in 2016. Much of the country’s mining of diamonds and other valuable minerals is in the hands of wildcat miners in the lawless, jungle-covered states of Amazonas and Bolívar.
But to help stave off bankruptcy, President Nicolas Maduro recently promised that the country would back a soon-to-be-launched digital currency with $5 billion of gold and oil.
Mass Migration ‘Dangerous Failure’ Says Hungary Official
Mass migration is dangerous not only regarding terrorism, public security, culture and social security, but also the whole healthcare system, State Secretary Bence Retvari told Hungarian daily Magyar Hirlap.
According to Retvari, European epidemiological organisations have recorded a significant rise of communicable diseases, including those which had already disappeared from Europe thanks to vaccinations. Such cases have been documented in Malta, Italy and even Germany. According to the German Robert Koch Institute, since 2015 there’s a 300% rise in Hepatitis B and measles, and a 200% in malaria and syphilis cases. The frequency of diseases of unknown origin has grown from 14 to 26%.
According to Retvari, by supporting the “migrant visa” (humanitarian visa), the European Parliament “gave green light to millions of illegal and economic migrants, bringing even more dangers to Europe.”
“If we compare how much would Brussels spend on integrating one immigrant in Europe, – which is clearly a failed attempt based on the experiences of the recent decades -, and how much it costs to restore a home in a crisis zone, it’s clear that with the same amount of money we can help a lot more people in their areas than in Europe,” Retvari stressed.
He reminded that with the Hungary Helps programme the government was able to help thousands of people to restart their lives in Iraq. “So this solution is better considering effectiveness, social peace and the actually persecuted people too,” he added. According to the politician, this is the solution chosen by those who really want to help, unlike the “hypocritical Brussels elite.”
WATCH: Israel Blows Up Hamas TV Station
The escalation in violence began when earlier in the day Monday thousands of mourners in the Gaza Strip buried seven militants killed during the Israeli commando raid and accompanying aircraft cover fire that resulted in strikes on the strip, which further led to sporadic rocket fire from Hamas.
One Israeli soldier was reported killed during the high risk operation which reportedly involved the commandos entering Gaza by civilian car in order to take out a gathering of Hamas military leaders.
During the Gaza funeral the crowd chanted “revenge” amidst masked gunmen in camouflage.
Apparently that “revenge” came in the form of a mortar shell fired from Gaza which scored a direct hit on a bus in southern Israel, severely wounding a 19-year-old Israeli. According to multiple regional reports this was followed by a barrage of over 100 rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel within only an hour’s time. Israeli sources have reported multiple injuries and extensive damage from the rockets, many of which may have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
طيران الاحتلال الحربي يقصف ويدمر مقر فضائية الاقصى بغزة. pic.twitter.com/VSnUpYUb2s
— شجاعية (@shejae3a) November 12, 2018
South Africa Testing “Confiscation” Of White Land To Build Affordable Housing
The debate about land redistribution in South Africa has been a passionate one, as many South African cities face a housing crunch that has left hundreds of thousands of people living in informal settlements. Just as this debate is starting to reach a fever pitch, one South African city, Ekurhuleni, is about to embark on what mayor Mzwandile Masina calls “a test case” for the nation: the government is going to seize hundreds of acres of land, from white citizens without paying for it, to build low-cost housing.
Last month, the city voted in favor of pushing forward with “expropriation without compensation”. According to ABC News, this was cited by the African National Congress as a legal rule that is necessary in order to distribute land equitably and correct “historic injustices” that took place in the country.
The mayor of Ekurhuleni stated the same thing, saying that landowners in South Africa should not be scared. Mayor Masina told AP: “Our policy is not to take the land by force. Our policy is to make sure the land is shared amongst those that need it.” It was unclear what those whom the land is taken from thought about this policy.
The total amount of land that’s going to be expropriated amounts to about 865 acres. The land is both private and government owned, and some of it has been vacant for decades. Masina, who heads the local ANC-led coalition, did not specify which landowners will be hit be the measure.
The internationally debated land reform was approved by South Africa’s ruling party to address the historic injustices of apartheid, and distribute land among the population more equitably. According to the country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, over 77 percent of South African farms and agricultural holdings are owned by white citizens with only four percent of lands belonging to black South Africans. White citizens make up just nine percent of the country’s population, while black citizens account for 76 percent. This, to the ruling regime, is a green light to repossess land that has been owned by white citizens, in many cases for generations.