You have to have over three million bolivars to buy one US dollar.
HAVANA TIMES – If a hundred, two hundred thousand, three hundred thousand bolivars (the Venezuelan currency) are just about enough to pay for transport, you need to spend a whole day in a bank line in the city center to get this money in cash, because in the outskirts of Barquisimeto, for example, there aren’t any bank branches or a measly ATM.
It’s as if life outside out of Caracas is beyond the third world in terms of basic essential services. Of course, the entire country is a disaster, but this problem with services is not new.
Many people are finding this year a lot worse than the previous one.
Survival is an uphill struggle with the pandemic reaching a new peak. In Caracas, friends tell me that Centros Centinelas (spaces that have been set up to only treat COVID-19 patients) are full and hospitals were already full long before then.
As a result, it’s hard to get access to any medical attention, whether it’s for the flu or any other disease. I have known people who have had to look up friends with some kind of government contact so they can be admitted into a Centro Centinela, where the medical attention is very good, according to what some people have told me; but others have told me it’s awful too, maybe because they are oversaturated.
Personally-speaking, two people in my Venezuelan family have become infected with COVID-19. One of them passed away because he tested negative and even though he was showing all of the symptoms, he couldn’t be admitted into a Centro Centinela without a doctor’s certificate to say he had the virus. My other relative had better luck… that is to say, he managed to get in with a contact.
We already know that the world has been turned upside down by this virus, but when things are already a mess beforehand, everything becomes a lot harder.
For example, it’s pretty much impossible to get a hold of fuel right now, and this crisis isn’t new. Fuel supplies have been up and down, but you can’t even find it easily at gas stations that charge in dollars anymore. If you look on the black market, you’re looking at paying over a dollar per liter, depending on your need and the need of the seller.
Those who cultivate crops and rear animals are protesting because harvests are lost, given the fact that the government isn’t giving priority to this sector and fuel supplies haven’t been regular.
[Editor’s note: when visiting Merida, Venezuela in 2006, I noticed there were a huge amount of gas guzzling 8-cylinder cars from the US. Back then, gasoline was virtually free and with one US dollar you could fill the tank and get change back].
Around here where I live, most people have a small earthen backyard and they have learned that the best thing to do is to make sure they have at least some protein available, themselves. It’s hard enough to get enough water for daily consumption, so planting crops is difficult, while a couple of goats, chickens, sheep or pigs, don’t need so much of this liquid. So, markets selling feed, medicine and other supplies for animal rearing have begun to flourish.
If you can barely live a week off of 10 USD, investing this money in chickens means you have a several eggs a week with minimal effort. This is only an option for those living in the outskirts, and people living in the city center or residential areas are unable to make these kinds of small investments.
The government continues to pay more attention to its own businesses, and the country has become one great system of feudal lords, and this becomes clearer every day. Every region has its own dukes and kinglets that use the surroundings for their own needs and power.
The number of people selling their work for a plate of food is growing every day. These small feudal lords are taking advantage of those who don’t have access to a source of employment or a plot of land with water (I don’t know which of the two is harder to get) to offer them one or two plates of food in exchange for their work as peons.
The irony? According to the Labor Act, a minimum wage must be paid, as well as a food coupon and other benefits for time worked. The people who are paying their laborers with a meal are breaking the law, but the “legal wage” for any job is barely enough for a couple of meals a week, as the minimum wage this month is 10 million bolivars, which is the equivalent of a little more than three USD per month.
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