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Venezuela: Election Day hunger traps

The country's economic disaster keeps the population under the yoke. Meanwhile, the regime weaves allegiances to the presidential elections

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Venezuela: Election Day hunger traps

The Portuguese measures words and avoids fuss in front of clients. He wears a moustache with gray hair and mixes memories with outrage behind El Chamo's counter, butcher's shop for decades in Petare, largest popular neighborhood in Caracas. Portuguese sells, or sold, sirloins, sausages and sausages. José Florentino, this is his real name, which few know, recalls events of Caracazo, bloody social outburst that departed in two destiny of Venezuela. It originated in 1989 after a strong rise in prices, during government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, and sectors of Chavismo claim it today as premise of so-called Bolivarian Revolution.

"I was grabbed here and looted, but n it was easy because everything was cheaper. People don't do market anymore. " Following impressions of this trader, about to turn 60 years, re are two realities around which re is consensus even beyond political positions. First, situation of vast majority of population, ir daily odyssey to survive, had never been so untenable. Second, scarcity and yoke of prices have woven patterns of fidelity that bind citizens to authorities through food exchanges and subsidies and, at same time, encourage informal business or directly outside law. The kilo of meat was fired weeks ago over two million bolivars, local currency, and came to graze total minimum wage, set at 2.5 million. Less than three dollars to unofficial change (2.6 euros).

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Talking about costs today in a neighborhood of Caracas has become a kind of pool. Prices increase in a matter of days, sometimes hours. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) envisages an increase of 1.8 million% in two years, a drama surpassed in this century by Zimbabwe alone. And while economic disaster is consolidating, Nicolas Maduro's regime seeks to strengn itself in a presidential election called with rules of game that, according to majority forces of opposition, favor government and pose a mere process. Some more than 20 million of Venezuelans are debating between voting and not going to polls for lack of guarantees as y ask main critical formations with Chavismo.

"I'm going to vote because it's a must. A good citizen must vote, "says Carmen Holguín, a 55-year-old seamstress, while waiting for bus in a long line that winds in a corner of Catia sector, one of most loyal areas to memory of former president Hugo Chavez. "I expect a change that is good for everyone because we are living very badly. He doesn't get money at all. Every day prices go up, "he laments. Although he does not confess his vote, he intuits his sympathy for Henri Falcón, opposition representative with more weight in se elections. William Joseph and Victor Valera, carriers, show ir disenchantment with politics, but y have different positions. "I'm not voting, I'm tired in 2003. Not for one or anor, "says first, while second is willing to give his support to Falcón, who moved away from postulates of Bolivarian Revolution in 2010. "The safest thing is for me to throw myself and go and vote. I think that man has some very clear ideas. But politics has a thousand faces, "he says about suspicions that he has agreed to mature a position in his government.

However, elections and ir result, rar than predictable, are not what is most interesting in streets of Caracas, in markets, in humble neighborhoods and in opposing municipalities like Chacao. With exception of Orthodox Chavistas, Caracas are much more concerned about security — in 2017 re were almost 27,000 murders, of which more than 5,000 were produced by resistance to security forces, according to Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, By collapse of public services and a productive model extractivist, by fall of PDVSA, state oil company, shortage and international isolation. Hundreds of thousands of people fled in recent months to neighboring Colombia in search of opportunities.

It's not hard to find someone who wants to vent. More complicated is to overcome initial distrust, related to control that authorities exert on population. The warning is common: beware of motorized collectives, shock groups of Chavismo. Junior Moral, age 33, is in loop with some accounts in an empty establishment. At counter, a handful of empanadas. "A slope already 200,000 bolívares. A breakfast, three empanadas and a juice would be 800,000 bolívares. If you eat two days, you practically got your salary dead. How do we survive or 29 days? Every day, every hour, every second situation becomes more difficult, "he describes. Morale will not vote despite hartazgo. Or, in fact, precisely because of hartazgo. "If people really went out to vote, I think we could win, but since everything is bought, it's not going to happen. I believe that five years ago Henrique Capriles won, "he says about elections of 2013.

A few meters away, discussion at a banana stand revolves around poor quality of services and missions, social projects of neighborhood promoted by Chávez with support of Cuban government. "What do we want of ripe? Do as Chávez, who cuts above, not down, "summarizes Gladys Contreras, aged 46, sick and unemployed in a system that exceeded 27% of unemployment last year, according to IMF. "I have card of Farland and PSUV [United Socialist Party of Venezuela] and I was one of those who would put me to fight with anyone. But I'm not voting. For none, it makes no sense because this is already fixed, "he continues.

The card of Farland

The so-called card of Farland is a document with which Chavismo tries to ensure support of popular classes. More than 16 million circulate in country. It allows access to bonds and services and, although on paper it does not serve to have a preferential attention in reception of periodic boxes of food, it is an instrument used to measure fidelity to regime.

In Petare, Pedro Key, retiree of 65 years, and Romina mulled port wine, educator of 34, are in charge of sharing that bag through local committees of supply and production (CLAP). That is, an aid introduced by Maduro in 2016 which, as opposition has repeatedly denounced, is basis of clientelist networks. Each box contains some packages of pasta, flour, milk, salt, rice, sugar, oil, tuna, tomato and mayonnaise... "I am one of those who brings benefits to a part of population," explains Key, veteran militant Chavez. Each month, at best, it coordinates distribution of se products to 503 families in community.

Despite his utter surrender to cause, he also conveys perplexity about situation. "Maduro says that after 21, things are going to change. I hope it's true. He has to improve economy, we've been holding this for five years, "he explains about what he calls" economic warfare. " "The countries that we have a little revolution today are most attacked on planet," he continues. "There is a long task, we must lift country", stubborn Romina mulled port wine. Meanwhile, hunger trap remains main resource that allows chavismo to perpetuate itself in power.

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