This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Carnage in Venezuela

"They told me: 'We are going to play a game, Little Rafael. It is called electrocution'. They shocked me on the abdomen, the neck, the penis, the butt, the back, my hands -- everywhere."
"I felt like my eardrums would explode."
"I knew nothing. I was just a quiet kid and didn't run around with anyone."
Rafael Gonzalez, 27, Barlovento, Venezuela

"Imagine how I felt as a mother."
"They [the military] killed them [men rounded up for arrest in Barlovento] like animals."
Petra Perez, Barlovento resident

"[Victims were innocent, subjected to] the most unfortunate cases of cruelty and inhuman denigrations [sic: degradation] of torture."
"The army doesn't have the preparation or the professional capacity to do crime prevention. They're not trained to do it."
Tarek William Saab, government ombudsman, Caracas Venezuela
In a jail cell outside Caracas. Many who have been arrested turned to crime because of the country’s economic woes. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Just as the Bolivarian revolution of Hugo Chavez, now inherited by President Nicolas Maduro, failed Venezuela, so too has its military, the tool of the failed government. As Venezuela reels in poverty -- despite its oil riches -- and crime always prevalent has soared as the economy descends into underdrive, food shortages has caused mass deprivation and hunger. Drawing thousands of Venezuelans to the streets in protest.

But President Maduro had a solution; he would have the military manage the pitiful food supply, with Venezuelan generals dictating how every item of food staples would be distributed. And now the military is doing such an outstanding job that markets still have empty shelves, while the military is realizing a profit. Grocers have taken to visiting illegal night markets operated by the military.

With the country verging on starvation and pediatric wards of hospitals seeing malnourished children in their death throes, the big business in the country has become food trafficking with the military at the steering wheel of the graft machine."Lately, food is a better business than drugs", mused retired General Cliver Alcala. The socialist government nationalized and neglected farms and factories so that domestic production of food shrivelled. And then the price of oil collapsed.

The Food Ministry created by Hugo Chavez can no longer afford the importation of the food required by hungry citizens in a country now incapable of producing its own food supply for self-sufficiency. Global food traders no longer are interested in selling directly to the Venezuelan government in light of graft concerns. According to one South American businessman, millions were paid in kickbacks to Venezuelan officials who work for the food ministry.

Gang members in Bolívar State, in eastern Venezuela. A constellation of armed groups have turned to kidnappings and robberies. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

But Venezuelans also have other pressing problems. The military, dispatched to provide a solution to the rising incidence of gangs and crime who are entering villages to arrest, interrogate, torture and kill those they suspect of being involved in criminal gangs. One of the world's highest rates of violent crimes distinguishes Venezuela, and that has become even more aggravated with rising unemployment and inability to procure basic life-needs.

There were 28,479 killings registered last year, to exacerbate the country's economic collapse. At one time gangs were armed by the Bolivarian movement as loyal street enforcers. Now that the country has spiralled into desperate conditions of high inflation, the disappearance of jobs and food shortages the gangs have tightened their grip over neighbourhoods and ordinary citizens themselves have turned to crime.

Now, the government has ordered the military to become involved in commando-type raids. In the rural area of Barlovento, military surprise raids followed by arrests leading to deaths have horrified the country. The military has killed hundreds of people guilty of gang activity and innocent as well. Authorities now state that 18 soldiers were arrested connected with the killings, to be brought to justice; massacres are in no one's best interests.

First the raids, the arrests, then the disappearances and finally the appearances of bodies hastily buried next to highways, some in mass graves. How much further than a country descend into chaos and self-destruction?

A funeral procession in Capaya, Venezuela, for men killed after raids by the security forces. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

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