Venezuela faces turmoil as Chavez worsens

Gabbar Singh

Test Debutant
Nov 11, 2007
Potentially unstable times ahead for Venezuela. If he does die then I hope the transition to another government is a smooth one.

Venezuela faced political turmoil and the possibility of new elections on Friday when it became increasingly unlikely that President Hugo Chavez would recover his health in time to be inaugurated for a new term next week.

The government, which has given only vague updates on his condition since he flew to Cuba for emergency treatment, admitted that Mr Chavez's condition had worsened.

"The President has faced complications as a result of a severe respiratory infection. This infection has led to respiratory deficiency that requires Commandante Chavez to remain in strict compliance with his medical treatment," said Ernesto Villegas, the information minister.

Close aides and relations have flown to Havana for what some have interpreted as a final goodbye to Mr Chavez, 58, who has dominated Venezuela for 14 years. In recent days, his parents, six brothers and four children are reported to have flown to Cuba, along with a list of aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces. Mr Chavez has previously acknowledged that he was suffering from cancer and endured several rounds of treatment.

But he is due to be sworn in for another six-year term of office on Thursday

Mr Chavez's enforced flight to Cuba has come during the highly sensitive interregnum between his re-election last October and his inauguration on Jan 10.

Exactly what would happen if Mr Chavez is still in hospital when inauguration day arrives is unclear. Under Venezuela's constitution, if the president dies or is "permanently incapacitated", new elections must be held within 30 days. In the meantime, the president of the National Assembly should take over as interim ruler.

But Mr Chavez's aides claim there is still time for him to recover - and they are are understood to be urging a postponement of the inauguration. The oppositon say this would be unconstitutional: they want an independent team of medical experts to be sent to Havana to assess the president's true state of health.

Mr Chavez chose his favoured successor last October when he made Nicolas Maduro vice-president. But Diosdado Cabello, the president of the National Assembly, would take over temporarily if the president dies. A power struggle between the two leading "Chavistas", Mr Maduro and Mr Cabello, could be looming.

Some opposition activists fear the next president could be more repressive than Mr Chavez. Francisco Toro, the founder of the "Caracas Chronicles" blog, said: "We did figure out some things with Chavismo in the last 14 years, which was they were not going to start rounding up people and throwing them in gulags. That's for poor countries. Chavez could afford to spend his way out of those mass support problems."

Mr Toro, 37, added: "We figured we were quite safe in that they were not going to start rounding up and shooting us. But we don't have that certainty any more."

Mr Maduro is a loyal "Chavista" who spent six years as foreign minister. If he takes over as president, he could prove more intolerant than his old mentor. "We don't know who Nicolas Maduro could turn out to be," said Mr Toro. "In any kind of cult of personality regime, this kind of transition coud be a transition to something worse."

The most worrying scenario, added Mr Toro, would be if Mr Chavez was unable to govern for an extended period. "The worst thing that could happen is that you have this kind of prolonged agony, where they manage to stabilise Chavez so that he's not dying but he cannot govern - and that goes on for weeks or months," he said.
Im praying for Chavez help. He is a good man to have in Americas backyard.
Venezuela and Cuba have an awful lot of propaganda levelled against them by the US media, they are small countries who have not invaded any nation, yet are wrongly made out to be rogue states.

Cuba and Venezuela have universal health care, high rates of literacy and long life expectancy. Can't all be bad can it ?
America doesnt want self dependendant states in its backyard. No matter how harmless they may be.

Look at Guatemala whose president had the audacity to try and help the impoverished by instituing land reforms. They want latin America to be full of subservient client states.

The Venezuelan private media is also CIA funded and vehemently anti chavez.

They just can't stop interfering.
America doesnt want self dependendant states in its backyard. No matter how harmless they may be.

Look at Guatemala whose president had the audacity to try and help the impoverished by instituing land reforms. They want latin America to be full of subservient client states.

The Venezuelan private media is also CIA funded and vehemently anti chavez.

They just can't stop interfering.

If you want to look at US-Latin American interference, take a look at Ronald Reagan's tenure as President. The most vicious, brutal, reactionary dictators backed - who suppressed and tortured thousands of people in their countries.

Under direct US control, Reagan's 'Freedom Fighters' raped, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Nicaragua in an effort to bring down Nicaragua's first democratically elected government.

The US had previously ruled Nicaragua through the brutal Somoza family dicatorship, once the dictatorship was overthrown by a popular revolution the US was quick to start an criminal campaign of terror against the government and civilians. The campaign of terror claimed 50,000 lives and crippled the entire nation. Nicaragua took its case to the World Court.

The court found that the U.S. actions constituted "an unlawful use of force .... [that] cannot be justified either by collective self-defence ... nor by any right of the United States to take counter-measures involving the use of force."

The court ordered the United States to pay reparations, estimated at between $12 billion and $17 billion, to Nicaragua. Two weeks after the verdict was issued, the U.S. Congress voted to give the Contras $100 million to continue their war of terror against the people of Nicaragua.

The US has never recognized the World Court's ruling nor paid any of the compensation owed to Nicaragua.

Reagan's blood-fest wasn't limited to Nicaragua, his puppet military dictators abducted, tortured, murdered and mutilated over 200,000 civilians in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in the name of 'democracy' and fighting communism.

In 1999 the United Nations determined that the wholesale slaughter of Guatemalans, constituted "genocide." It was a genocide ordered and managed by the White House under Reagan.

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher - now THAT was the axis of evil.
Venezuela and Cuba have an awful lot of propaganda levelled against them by the US media, they are small countries who have not invaded any nation, yet are wrongly made out to be rogue states.

Cuba and Venezuela have universal health care, high rates of literacy and long life expectancy. Can't all be bad can it ?

venezuela has certainly done well to spread some of its oil wealth to improve the lot of poor venezuelans, cuba on the other hand is a tinpot failed state.

universal health care is a something to be proud of. the liberties that have been sacrificied and inefficiencies on national level that have destroyed the economy however have blown away any idea that communism works, especially for a nation no longer operating as a pseudo imperial protectorate.

cuba is a prime exacple of how such all pervasive economic engineering brought about inter-class equality not by making the poor wealthier, but by making everyone poor apart from the ruling elite.

even cubas ruling class is realising this, allowing for the first time people operate businesses, and seek private employment. its only a matter of time cuba returns to normalcy, even though no doubt the cult of castro and che will survive, no matter what cuba ends up like.

Why does the United States hates Communist Nations ?

communist nations fiercely oppose expansion of private american corporations into their territories, hence the american political class, which runs on donations by large corporations, promotes its version of globalisation and open trade (at least where it benefits american companies)
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3 years on the situation is dire in Venezuela.

Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro declares state of emergency
Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, has declared a state of emergency, hours after US intelligence officials warned that the South American country could be on the brink of disintegration.

The powers Maduro obtains after Friday night’s declaration allow him “to stabilise our country, and confront all the international and national threats against our fatherland in this moment”, the president said, but he did not detail how he intends to use them.

The country is grappling with soaring inflation, a shrinking economy, chronic food shortages, and power cuts so bad that public servants have been put on a two-day week and the president personally urged women to stop blow-drying their hair to save electricity.

In December the opposition won parliamentary elections by a landslide, and is now pushing for a referendum on recalling Maduro from office, allowed under Venezuela’s constitution.

The president has vowed to see out his term, due to end in 2019, but the two US intelligence officials told journalists in Washington that it looks increasingly unlikely Maduro can hold on to power, even if he staves off a recall vote.

A leftwinger close to former President Hugo Chávez, the 53-year-old Maduro came to power after the founder of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian revolution” died of cancer. But he lacks Chávez’s charisma or the oil bonzanza that funded his reforms. The former bus driver could be vulnerable to a “palace coup”, from colleagues frustrated by his handling of Chávez’s legacy, or an outright military grab for power, news agencies reported the unnamed officials as saying.

Maduro’s Friday night declaration of a 60-day state of emergency comes after a week that saw demonstrations for a recall vote escalate into violence, with protesters hurling stones and police firing teargas.

His biggest problem is the economy, which contracted last year and is forecast to shrink by a further 8% this year. Inflation is already in triple digits and expected to soar over 700% this year, which could leave the government too cash-strapped to even pay for printing new money.

As shortages of basic goods deepen, hours-long queues have become part of daily life for most Venezuelans, and looting is increasingly common, with mobs stealing flour, chicken and even underwear last week. Lengthy drought has created severe power shortages in a country heavily dependent on hydropower. Critics say mismanagement and lack of investment have exacerbated the problems.

The government’s efforts to manage the shortages have included moving clocks forward half an hour, closing schools on Fridays, sending civil servants home three days a week, and even drafting in Maduro himself to dispense energy-saving tips. “Cut the use of hair-dryers, or only use them half the time,” he said on a recent TV appearance. “Do you think you could do this, ladies?”

Caracas has become one of the most violent cities in the world, with people waiting to buy groceries leaving their cash at home while they queue, and summoning relatives to bring it to them at the last minute to avoid theft.

“You can hear the ice cracking. You know there’s a crisis coming,” one US official said. “Our pressure on this isn’t going to resolve this issue.” The US government fears a return to the convulsions of 1989, when an earlier collapse in oil prices contributed to riots and looting in which more than 300 people died, the officials said.

Maduro denounced the press briefing as part of a conspiracy against his country. “Washington is activating measures at the request of Venezuela’s fascist right,” he said in a TV broadcast.

Any US intervention is sensitive in Venezuela because Washington has a history of both covert and open intervention across Latin America, from Chile to Nicaragua. In Venezuela there is lingering resentment at support for a shortlived 2002 coup against Chávez.

A surge in oil revenue, or fresh cash in the form of Chinese loans, might reinvigorate Maduro’s government, but there is little sign he can hope for either.

Work has all-but stopped on the Chinese bullet train that was intended as South America’s first and a symbol of socialist solidarity. It is now four years overdue, Chinese workers have pulled out, key sites have been looted and a government delegation to Beijing earlier this year came home empty-handed. ​And t​he retreat of two big oil services companies, Schlumberger and Halliburton, after the state firm failed to pay outstanding bills means crude production could fall below 2 million barrels per day for the first time in 20 years.

Venezuelans on the food and economic crisis blighting their daily lives

The clubbing districts of Las Mercedes and San Ignacio in Caracas are as packed as ever, despite the economic crisis gripping Venezuela. But there is one notable difference: a lack of Polar beer. Empresas Polar SA, the country’s largest food and beverage company, has halted beer production because, it says in a statement on its website, it cannot obtain the foreign currency it needs to purchase malted barley.

“Nightlife still exists in the city because some people are going out of their way to find a distraction, an escape, from the usual drama the country finds itself involved in. Caracas is hectic, as always, but there is an air of dread pervading the city,” says Luis, a twentysomething programmer from Venezuela’s capital.

Closure of the country’s largest brewery is a tiny window into the deepening crises besetting the country, and an indication of the economic and political chaos gripping Venezuela.

“Everywhere I go, even in the better neighbourhoods of Caracas, nearly every single supermarket or grocery during the whole day, every single day, has hundreds of people in line waiting outside. It is simply impossible to obtain any products that have their price controlled by the government legally any more,” says Luis.
A customer drinks a Polar beer in downtown Caracas.
A customer drinks a Polar beer in downtown Caracas. Empresas Polar SA, the country’s largest beer manufacturer is shutting some of its plants because of a lack of imported barley. Photograph: Fernando Llano/AP

The president, Nicolás Maduro, declared a 60-day state of emergency on Friday, and has threatened to seize the closed factories to reverse the country’s economic woes. Empresas Polar SA’s owner, Lorenzo Mendoza, a fierce critic of Maduro and one of several business owners to cease production across the country, has blamed government mismanagement for the crisis.

According to Venezuelans who responded to a Guardian callout, the situation is worsening. They must choose between long queues in the searing heat to buy basic supplies, with the knowledge they may leave empty-handed, or turn to black market traders – known as bachaqueros – who sell basic products at eye-watering prices.

“We’re supposed to have access to basic foodstuffs on a particular day of the week, according to the final number of your ID card, but usually the products I need are not available,” says Cristina, a 60-year-old translator and conference producer from Caracas. “I have not been able to get milk, sugar or cornflour in about four or five months. Toilet paper is an issue, as well as soap and deodorant. I refuse to buy these products from the bachaqueros since I consider them crooks,” she says.
The Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro
The Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, has declared a 60-day state of emergency. Photograph: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

For those whose ID numbers fail to return supplies, their only option is to buy from the country’s illegal traders – who wait on the streets overnight to purchase goods as soon as stores open.

“There’s a woman who sells diapers at 11 times their value from 171 to 2,000 Venezuelan bolívars [£11-£139], and another that sells rice at almost three times its value,” says social media manager Andrea Ramírez, 24, from Caracas.

“Unless you stay overnight, praying the bachaqueros don’t cut the line with violent threats, you can’t find deodorant, shampoo, soap, flour, rice, pasta, margarine, milk, formulas for babies, diapers, oil, beans, sanitary pads, toilet paper, you name it. Conversation always circles around food; what people didn’t find and what they need. The only way to buy them is on the black market.”

Several hundred people looted a truck carrying kitchen rolls and shampoo after it crashed in Tachira state in western Venezuela on Thursday. In Mérida, a city in the Andes mountains of north-western Venezuela, looters stole chicken from a state-run supermarket on Wednesday and a day later, a group of hooded motorcyclists attempted to steal 650 sacks of flour as they were being delivered to a depot in the city.

Asdrúbal, a 25-year-old computer engineer who lives in Mérida, has seen the situation become increasingly militarised under the 60-day state of emergency.
People queue to buy toilet paper and nappies outside a pharmacy in Caracas.
People queue to buy toilet paper and nappies outside a pharmacy in Caracas. Photograph: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

“The most striking thing of this state of emergency is that you see the military patrolling the supermarkets all the time. I live in an area dominated by the Tupamaros, a paramilitary group that supports the government. It’s very distressing sometimes.

“The government-owned Mercal food store in my neighbourhood only sells food to those who are self-declared and proven Chavistas. This has made life very difficult for those who don’t agree with the government party,” he says.

Looting has been reported across the country. In the first four months of 2016, 107 episodes of looting, or attempted looting, were recorded.

“People are assaulting you over a bag of flour, punching each other in the queues and supermarkets, wreaking havoc. I live in Caracas but I don’t hang out because I would get murdered,” says Rey, an18-year-old student. “I don’t eat the same any more, in fact, I eat much less due to the lack of food, I’m allowed to buy one canilla [Venezuelan baguette] only, that’s my quota,” he says.

Maduro has blamed the crisis on drops in global oil prices, a drought cutting the country’s main power source, and an economic war waged by rightwing opponents. The opposition says that the economic policies of Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, are responsible.

“If I compare my situation with that of the majority of my fellow citizens I may feel privileged, but very far from the level of life I was used to, not that many years ago,” says Federico, a 55-year-old journalist, author and university professor from Caracas.

“I don’t eat bread any more, not even our national corn bread arepa. Supermarkets are dramatically empty, and you can see the long lines in front of them. And there’s never enough for everyone. Thousands of people only have time to provide for their homes. What about their jobs?” he says.

Under the country’s constitution a referendum can be called to remove a president from office once they have served half their term. Opponents claim 600,000 people have signed a petition calling for a referendum – more than triple the number needed to begin a recall. But the president, whose approval rating is low, has vowed to see out his term, due to end in 2019.

“After work I drive around to supermarkets to look for food every day. I try to buy for me and for my family, who live in the countryside where the situation is worse. I don’t have time to rest. I am really tired and angry,” says Isabel, 53, who works for a home supplies retailer.

“The state of emergency isn’t improving anything. It is not making us eat better. There is only the black market and it is too expensive … this economic model of regulations is only making us poor, without any groceries, and hungry,” she says.
What has gone wrong in Venezuela?

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has declared a state of emergency to combat the economic war he says foreign powers and right-wing forces in Venezuela are waging against the Latin American country.

Venezuela has the world's highest inflation rate at 180% and there are shortages of basic goods as well as power shortages.

Opposition politicians have handed in a petition with 1.85 million signatures asking for a recall referendum to oust President Maduro from power.

Here, we look at some of the factors which have led to the oil-rich country's current crisis.

Why low oil prices are bad for Venezuela

There is no question that Venezuela is heavily dependent on oil, of which it has the world's largest proven resources.

Oil accounts for about 95% of Venezuela's export revenues and was used to finance some of the government's generous social programmes which, according to official figures, have provided more than one million poor Venezuelans with homes.

But prices for Venezuelan oil have plummeted. They almost halved from an average of $88 per barrel in 2014 to $45 in 2015.

By 13 May 2016, they had fallen to $35 per barrel.

The low oil price means that the government does not have the amount of dollars in its coffers it once had.

This in turn is a problem because Venezuela's economy is not at all diverse.

The country grows and produces very little except oil and has historically relied on imports to feed its people.

A lack of dollars means it is struggling to import all the goods its people need and want.

What's behind the shortages?

The fact that the government has fewer dollars at its disposal to import goods is a large part of the problem.

But there are also other factors.

President Hugo Chavez, who governed Venezuela from 1999 to 2013, introduced price controls on some basic goods in 2003.

The idea was to make essential goods affordable for Venezuela's poor. The prices of items such as sugar, coffee, milk, rice, flour and corn oil were capped.

Producers complained that the new regulations forced them to operate at a loss.

Some refused to provide goods for the government-run stores where the price-controlled goods were sold; others decided to stop producing these goods altogether.

The result was that the country became even more reliant on imports.

What's with the long queues?

With subsidised goods becoming increasingly scarce, many Venezuelans have been forced to queue for hours to get the essentials.

When a sought-after staple such as cornflour arrives at a supermarket, the word will spread quickly over social media and hundreds of people will queue to get it.

The government says the shortages are being made worse by an "economic war" being waged against it.

It says that some people are hoarding goods while other buy more than they need to sell them on at a profit.

To cut down on such behaviour, President Maduro announced in 2014 that he would introduce fingerprinting for shoppers.

He has also accused merchants of holding back goods to drive up prices.

The government says that up to 40% of all subsidised goods are being smuggled into neighbouring Colombia, where they are sold at a massive profit.

In August 2015, Mr Maduro ordered the partial closing of the border with Colombia.

Despite these measures, the shortages have become chronic and the queues continue.

Some Venezuelans are even reporting going hungry because they struggle to get the food they need.

Why is inflation so high?

With so many goods hard to get hold of, prices have shot up. There is a black market for everything from staple goods to dollars.

Shoppers report that bags of cornflour, used to make typical Venezuelan corn cakes or arepas, are going for many times the price set by the government.

Analysts say the inflation is made worse by Venezuela's complicated exchange rate system.

There are different tiers for people buying dollars depending on what they are using the money for, with preferential rates for those importing essential goods and food.

There are also limits on how many dollars Venezuelans can legally buy, driving those who want more to the black market, which in turn further drives up the value of the dollar against the local currency.

Why are the National Assembly and the president at odds?

In parliamentary elections in December, opposition parties won a majority of seats in Venezuela's legislative, the National Assembly.

They campaigned on a promise to remove President Maduro form office before his term ends in 2019.

Since their election victory they have tried to do this by a number of means.

They proposed a constitutional amendment aimed at shortening his term from six to four years, but it was rejected by the Supreme Court.

They have also handed in a petition with 1.85 million signatures requesting a recall referendum be held.

What are the latest street protests about?

Opposition groups have called on people to march to the headquarters of the National Electoral Council (CNE) to demand that it start the process of verifying the signatures on the petition for a recall referendum.

The petition was handed in on 2 May and the opposition fears the the CNE is sitting on it in order to delay a potential recall referendum.

The timing of the referendum is key.

Under Venezuela's constitution, if a president is recalled in the last two years of his term, the vice-president takes over.

For new elections to be triggered, a recall referendum would have to be held before 10 January 2017.

The opposition is keen on fresh elections as Vice-President Aristobulo Isturiz is a loyal member of President Maduro's Socialist Unity Party.

What will happen next?

Vice-President Isturiz has ruled out a recall referendum, alleging the signatures collected by the opposition were fraudulent.

In a news conference on 17 May, Mr Maduro was even more belligerent towards the National Assembly than usual.

He said it had "lost political validity". "It's a matter of time before it disappears," he added.

The National Assembly for its part has rejected the decree Mr Maduro issued declaring a 60-day state of emergency.

It is hard to see how the two sides can reach a compromise at this stage.
[MENTION=49505]sshakir411[/MENTION] one more Latin country bites the dust!

Latin America is best explained in "100 years of solitude" they just don't have it in them,their previous masters Spain and Portugal are also suffering.
Venezuela and Cuba have an awful lot of propaganda levelled against them by the US media, they are small countries who have not invaded any nation, yet are wrongly made out to be rogue states.

Cuba and Venezuela have universal health care, high rates of literacy and long life expectancy. Can't all be bad can it ?

Same applies to Saudi Arabia too?

When you have a great source of income .. the kings give freebies to the plebs and all seem happy.
But trouble starts when that income runs dry, in this case the sharp fall in oil prices!
[MENTION=49505]sshakir411[/MENTION] one more Latin country bites the dust!

Latin America is best explained in "100 years of solitude" they just don't have it in them,their previous masters Spain and Portugal are also suffering.

Which other Latin American country is biting the dust, pray?

Apart from some notable examples like Haiti, Latin America is one of the most peaceful places with some of the best social indicators on earth.
Which other Latin American country is biting the dust, pray?

Apart from some notable examples like Haiti, Latin America is one of the most peaceful places with some of the best social indicators on earth.

Yes compared to India and Africa but overall they are pretty bad,others being Brazil,Columbia,Mexico,Peru(getting there).Biting the dust was based on its(discussed in BRICS thread) about economic activity as such and innovation index too they are never able to do anything along those lines because of peace never prevailing for long.
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The Venezuelan government is enslaving its own people

Amnesty International says a new decree in Venezuela that says the government can make any of its citizens farm the country’s fields in order to combat its current, punishing food crisis “effectively amounts to forced labour.”

“The decree, officially published earlier this week, establishes that people working in public and private companies can be called upon to join state-sponsored organisations specialised in the production of food,” Amnesty International reported.

“They will be made to work in the new companies temporarily for a minimum of 60 days after which their ‘contracts’ will be automatically renewed for an extra 60-day period or they will be allowed to go back to their original jobs.”

Venezuela’s economy has been in a tail spin since 2014, a year after the death of the architect of the country’s decade-plus long socialist revolution, Hugo Chavez.

His successor, Nicolas Maduro, then took over only to face a swift and brutal decline, turning Venezuela into what economist Steve Hanke calls “the most miserable” country in the world. Aside from a food shortage, the country is also experiencing almost 300% inflation, frequent and violent mass protests, a massive public health crisis, and intense political repression.

The historically low price of oil, the country’s main export, has only made the situation more dire. Production has tanked. Venezuela has billions of debt payments for its state oil company, PDVSA, due this fall, and analysts wonder if it will be able to make those payments.

Meanwhile, the people are clamoring for snap elections and the release of political prisoners. The Organisation of American States has called for the same.

“In 16 years, they have never been more unified on a group of principles, one being the referendum,” Brian Dean of ACG Analytics told Business Insider recently. “Any credible opposition candidate will win if there are free and fair elections.”

That means the government, which is already ruling in a state of emergency decree will only continue to dig in its heels before this is all said and done.
Venezuela's currency now worth so little shopkeepers weigh vast piles of notes instead of counting them
Scenes on the streets of Caracas said to be reminiscent of the past century's most chaotic cases of hyperinflation

Inflation in Venezuela is expected to reach 720 per cent this year, with the largest bolívar bill now worth just five US cents on the black market.

Some shopkeepers have reportedly taken to weighing rather than counting the wads of cash customers hand them, and standard-size wallets have become all but useless in the socialist South American state. Instead, many people stuff huge volumes of cash into handbags, money belts, or backpacks, in scenes analysts have said are suggestive of "runaway" inflation.

In 2014, plummeting global oil prices decimated Venezuela's economy. President Nicolás Maduro responded by fixing the official exchange rate and ordering banks to print more cash, which ultimately devalued the currency further, while goods prices soared.

The country of 30 million does not publish consumer-price data on a regular basis, but observers have said scenes on the streets of the capital, Caracas, are reminiscent of the past century's most chaotic cases of hyperinflation.

Humberto Gonzalez, who runs a delicatessen in the city, said he uses the same scales to weigh slices of salty white cheese and the stacks of bolívar notes handed over by his customers .

“It’s sad,“ Mr Gonzalez told Bloomberg. ”At this point, I think the cheese is worth more.”

Jesus Casique, a consulting firm director, told the news site that although weighing cash was not ubiquitious, it was indicative of a financial crisis.

“When they start weighing cash, it’s a sign of runaway inflation,” he said. “But Venezuelans don’t know just how bad it is because the government refuses to publish figures.”

Oil makes up a staggering 95 per cent of Venezuela's exports, and accounts for a quarter of the country's economy, with oil-related revenues having historically supplied roughly half the government budget. This kind of over-reliance on a single export notoriously depresses all other industries in a country, in a phenomenon known by economists as "Dutch Disease".

When the price of oil on the global market collapsed by two-thirds in 2014, Venezuela had little else to fall back on, so a natural reaction would have been for the bolívar to collapse. But Mr Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chávez following the revolutionary leader's death in 2013, instead tried to control the exchange rate, creating a massive black market for currency.

Figuring out scams to get dollars and then sell them for bolívars became hugely lucrative business for Venezuelans, setting off a feedback loop that drove the inflation rate higher and higher.

In one of Caracas richer neighbourhoods, the owner of a tiny kiosk selling newspapers, cigarettes and snacks told the Washington Post that every evening he quietly stuffs a plastic bag full of the day’s earnings, around 100,000 bolívars (about £42) in notes of 10, 20, 50 and 100 bolívars. Venezuela has one of the highest crime rates in the world, and he said carrying that much cash frightens him.

“All of Caracas is unsafe,” the 42-year-old told the newspaper, opting not to give his name.

His best-selling item is cigarettes, he said, which have climbed in price from 250 bolívars to 2,000 bolívars a pack — at least 20 bills.

The shrinking value of the currency has meant that withdrawing the equivalent of £5 from an ATM produces a fistful of more than 100 bills. Some ATMs now need to be refilled every three hours, because the machines can only hold so much cash. This means there are often a limited number of functioning ATMs in Caracas, and long queues to withdraw money.

Electronic payment is increasingly common in the country Henkel Garcia, director of the Venezuelan economic think tank Econométrica, told the Washington Post. “The use of online payments is likely to have soared," he said.

But it is expensive for small businesses to buy and set up credit-card machines.

Mr Maduro, who has largely continued the socialist policies of his predecessor, blamed the situation on an “economic war” waged by his opponents in the business community and in the United States. But, in a sign his government recognises the severity of the problem, he recently announced the issue of larger-denomination bills, expected in January.

The notes are reportedly set to start at 500 bolivars and reach 20,000 bolivars, or just over £8.

Until the notes are issued, however, the Venezuelan people are poorer than ever, while the country is awash with cash.

Bremmer Rodrigues, who runs a bakery on the outskirts of Caracas, said his family are at a loss over what to do with their bags of bills. Every day his business takes in hundreds of thousands of bolívar, he said, which he hides around his office until packing them up in boxes to deposit at the bank. He said if someone looked in on him, he might be mistaken for a drug dealer.

“I feel like Pablo Escobar,” the 25-year-old told Bloomberg. “It’s a mountain of cash, every day more and more.
If it wasnt for it's oil reserves, Venezuela would have been a failed state long before today. I don't think there is any escape from the current crisis; Maduro will be be the final nail in the country's democracy.

Very disappointing outcome for a country that has been around for so long. Goes to show oil cant save every country.
6 years later.......

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">WATCH: Venezuela’s opposition fills streets nationwide today in protests against President Maduro.<br><br>Maduro says his government is breaking relations with the US after President Trump backed the country's opposition leader, Juan Guaidó. <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>— NBC News (@NBCNews) <a href="">January 23, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Brazil and Canada are among the countries joining Trump in recognizing Juan Guaido as Venezuela's president. Here's the full list <a href=""></a></p>— Bloomberg (@business) <a href="">January 23, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>
There's only one word for Venezuela.