HAVANA TIMES — On arriving back to Venezuela, I saw that the government finally admitted it, that it acknowledged the “economic war” it had condemned year after year is nothing other than the leadership’s corruption.
Of course, to admit this, with those words, is not something I think will actually happen, not unless powerful interests are at work, or equally strong pressures are applied to force President Maduro to recognize the government’s acts of embezzlement, poor control mechanisms and awful management of the economy by the cabinet.
These days, however, and despite the declarations made by the new Public Health minister, who denied any significant shortages in medications, arguing that Venezuelans have the bad habit of buying medication they don’t need, we are seeing certain reports that suggest the government has finally decided to at least take some measures against its own corruption.
Very shy measures, to be sure, but such timid gestures are razing to the ground the whole spiel about the economic war and the alleged hoarding of food and medical products by the unpatriotic bourgeoisie. This, mind you, should not make us forget that no few people in both camps (if there are actually two camps) have taken advantage of these circumstances to speculate with prices. Now, they’ve launched Operacion Gorgojo (“Operation Weevil”), and, in a matter of days, as many as 40 or 50 people connected to Venezuela’s Abastos Bicentanarios have been taken down.
The Abastos Bicentenarios are large, government-run food warehouses where people could find basic products at subsidized prices. For the average worker, these warehouses are the most affordable option in terms of making monthly wages go a bit further. Two years ago, however, they began to present serious problems. Not only did one have to stand in huge lines of people to buy anything there, but these establishments were chronically understocked.
Everyone began to ask why, if the so-called economic war was being waged by private establishments, could people not find what they needed at State stores either.
People had to wait two years for the government to decide to investigate what was going on with the managers and employees of these warehouses. Where were re-sellers, who buy products at 20 or 50 Bolivars and re-sell them at 300 or 500, getting these products from? These people aren’t exactly selling the product they buy the same day of week these products are made “available” to the public. The products taken across the Colombian border were also coming – or are still coming – from somewhere. Obviously, it isn’t profitable to buy these products at private stores, with higher prices, while doing so at State markets is.
But the government’s thought processes – or perhaps the actions based on these – are slow. While managers, and those hierarchically above them, were concealing products at these warehouses and selling them to resellers instead of putting these on the shelves, Maduro and other government representatives continued to accuse private store owners of hiding merchandise.
Of course, it is now convenient to make scapegoats out of these managers and employees, to make them shoulder the responsibility of the country’s shortages alone. Now, we need only wait for them to publish the names of the ministers who encouraged such corruption and have embezzled the country, for Maduro and the members of his government to acknowledge their share of responsibility in this enormous chain of corruption Venezuela has become, which, though not installed by them, has led the country to some rather dangerous extremes.