From The New York Times:
For five months, The New York Timestracked 21 public hospitals in Venezuela. Doctors are seeing record numbers of children with severe malnutrition. Hundreds have died.
By Meredith Kohut and Isayen Herrera | December 17, 2017
Hunger has stalked Venezuela for years. Now, it is killing the nation’s children at an alarming rate, doctors in the country’s public hospitals say.
Venezuela has been shuddering since its economy began to collapse in 2014. Riots and protests over the lack of affordable food, excruciating long lines for basic provisions, soldiers posted outside bakeries and angry crowds ransacking grocery stores have rattled cities, providing a telling, public display of the depths of the crisis.
But deaths from malnutrition have remained a closely guarded secret by the Venezuelan government. In a five-month investigation by The New York Times, doctors at 21 public hospitals in 17 states across the country said that their emergency rooms were being overwhelmed by children with severe malnutrition — a condition they had rarely encountered before the economic crisis began.
“Children are arriving with very precarious conditions of malnutrition,” said Dr. Huníades Urbina Medina, the president of the Venezuelan Society of Childcare and Pediatrics. He added that doctors were even seeing the kind of extreme malnutrition often found in refugee camps — cases that were highly unusual in oil-rich Venezuela before its economy fell to pieces.
For many low-income families, the crisis has completely redrawn the social landscape. Parents like Kenyerber’s mother go days without eating, shriveling to the weight of children themselves. Women line up at sterilization clinics to avoid having children they can’t feed. Young boys leave home and join street gangs to scavenge for scraps, their bodies bearing the scars of knife fights with competitors. Crowds of adults storm Dumpsters after restaurants close. Babies die because it is hard to find or afford infant formula, even in emergency rooms.
There is a lot more at the original, including some very unpleasant photographs.
The magazine Foreign Policy noted:
The contrast with Venezuela’s own past — or the present of some once-struggling neighbors, like Colombia — is stark. In the 1960s, Venezuela was a beacon of transparency and democracy — and wealth. With democratic presidents Rómulo Betancourt, Raúl Leoni, and Rafael Caldera, Venezuela became a role model subsequently copied throughout Latin America, and one that offered refuge for political exiles seeking freedom.
But years of economic mismanagement under former president Hugo Chavez and then (Nicolas) Maduro, aggravated by a slide in global oil prices, have poleaxed Venezuela’s economy, giving it the world’s highest inflation and a dearth of food, medicine, and other basic goods.
Wealth? CNN’s Patrick Gillespie pointed out that Venezuela has the world’s largest proven petroleum reserves and “was once Latin America’s richest nation.” The ‘Bolivarian Socialist‘ government nationalized the oil industry and filled it with political cronies. Venezuela has been in the grip of Presidents Chavez and Maduro’s policies for 18 years now, plenty of time to have raised an entire generation of Venezuelans to take over from foreign nationals in the oil industry, yet the exodus of foreign managers is hurting. From Bloomberg Markets:
By Lucia Kassai and Sheela Tobben | November 10, 2017, 11:20 AM EST | Updated on November 11, 2017, 12:01 AM EST
Venezuela is set to pump the least oil in almost three decades, just when it needs petrodollars the most.
Output is expected to slump to 1.84 million barrels a day next year, the lowest compared with official government data since 1989, according to a survey with four analysts compiled by Bloomberg. Rig counts hit a 14-year low in October, as drilling companies including Schlumberger Ltd. reduce their exposure in the nation due to unpaid bills.
Owner of crude reserves larger than Saudi Arabia’s, Venezuela is teetering on the brink of default. Production of oil, the key commodity that brings in badly needed dollars to service Venezuela’s debt, will shrink for the seventh year. It’s not only that output is declining, says Thomas Olney, an analyst at consultant Facts Global Energy. Quality is going down as well, chipping away at revenues for state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.
There’s much more at the link, and it shows the gross mismanagement of the oil industry. Yes, crude prices have fallen, down from the over $100 per barrel to the $57 range,1 but that means that oil production, which brings in 95% of the country’s export earnings, should have a priority of increasing, or at least maintaining production, not letting it fall.
Instead, neglect of maintenance led Phillips 66 to reject a shipment of Venezuelan oil, due to high salt content.
Excess water and contaminants such as salt accelerate corrosion of pipes and equipment, resulting in unwanted downtime just as refineries are running hard to meet growing global fuel demand. Vessels sit outside Venezuelan ports for days waiting for inspectors hired by U.S. buyers to verify if the crude meets specifications.
In Asia, a buyer said claims for refunds on the poor-quality oil are piling up. In addition to the cost to repair damage from corrosion, refiners have to spend more money to treat the contaminated mix of water and oil, known as slops.
A refiner in Europe and another in Japan say they have reduced purchases of Venezuelan oil not only because of low quality, but also because of growing concerns over doing business with the state oil company amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis and U.S. sanctions. The buyer in Japan said PDVSA has been attempting to lure them back by offering “steep” discounts.
Lady Margaret Thatcher once said, “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.” By allowing its oil industry to fall apart, Venezuela has, quite literally, been running out of other people’s money. Petroleum exporting nations are, in effect, importing other people’s money, importing the fruits of the labor of foreigners, yet the socialist government of Venezuela, and the nationalized oil company PDVSA defaulted on a loan payment on November 13th. 2
From The New York Times again:
President Nicolás Maduro has acknowledged that people are hungry in Venezuela, but he has refused to accept international aid, often saying that Venezuela’s economic problems are caused by foreign adversaries like the United States, which he says is waging an economic war against his country.
Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. But many economists contend that years of economic mismanagement set the stage for the current disaster. The damage was masked when oil prices were high, giving the government large resources. But when oil prices began a steep fall at the end of 2014, scarcities became common and food prices skyrocketed. Inflation could reach 2,300 percent next year, the International Monetary Fund warned in October.
The Health Ministry and the National Institute of Nutrition did not respond to requests for interviews or official health reports containing malnutrition statistics. But the nation’s political opposition, which has been stripped of its power by the government, continues to sound the alarm.
While I’m sure that the left would want to blame the evil Donald Trump for this, Venezuela’s problems began long before Mr Trump was even nominated; Barack Obama, hardly a foe of socialist governments, was President then.
It’s time to tell the truth: socialism is not just an authoritarian, anti-democratic political system, but it is a wholly failed economic system. Capitalism is the only economic system we have ever known which raised more than a tiny minority — tiny minority meaning: the people with military power — above the subsistence level. Now, once capitalist Venezuela, not that long ago the wealthiest nation in South America, has people starving to death under socialism.
This is what the socialists and the ‘Bernie bros‘ want to bring to the United States! Oh, that’s not what they think, of course: to the socialists, their policies will make everybody well-to-do in the Western sense. They’ll all live in upscale urban apartments and have their Starbucks every morning, on the way to their six-hour-a-day well-paying professional jobs, with their beautiful secretaries there, smiling, everyday.3
Alas! despite their fevered imaginations of how great America would be under socialism, we happen to have examples of where socialism, in one form or another, was put into practice:
- The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which ultimately collapsed;
- The People’s Republic of China, which abandoned socialism for a capitalist economy, which then took off to become second largest in the world;
- Venezuela, with the world’s largest proven petroleum reserves, and is now in almost complete collapse;
- Cuba, a land of poverty and totalitarianism; and
- North Korea.
The equality promised by socialists has turned into equal poverty; only a small minority live better than squalor, and that small minority is, of course, the people with guns.4
The truth of socialism, as revealed by its history, is that the Bernie bros and their ilk wouldn’t have those upscale urban apartments, but would be sent out in the fields, because that’s where the food is grown, and they’d be needed to work the crops. Socialism means poverty, and socialism means totalitarian control. Nowhere has it been tried with any different results.
- $WTI was at $57.36 when I was writing this article, not far down from it’s 52-week high of $59.05, set a couple of weeks ago, and well off its low of $42.06. Venezuela’s ‘heavy, sour’ crude sells for much less. ↩
- From OilPrice.com December 15, 2017: Venezuela’s cash-strapped state oil firm PDVSA said that it had initiated bank transfers on Thursday to pay US$539 million in interest on four separate bonds, just hours before grace periods on those payments expire between Friday and Sunday. ↩
- Hillary Clinton blamed, among other, the ‘Bernie bros’ for her defeat, saying that they were “more than a little sexist.” She wasn’t the only one to make that claim. ↩
- No socialist nation has ever allowed its subjects to keep firearms. ↩