It was once one of Latin America’s richest countries.
Now it is an economic wasteland on the verge of economic implosion.
And under the misguided leadership of Hugo Chávez and his even more inept apprentice, Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela, with some of the world’s largest oil reserves, has become the posterchild for Latin American poverty and social anxiety, hovering over a danger precipice of pure anarchy.
Late last year, Venezuela’s 31 million citizens tilted even closer to that breaking point as its autocratic populist government rendered up yet another illogical and caustic decree rendering all six billion of the country’s 100-bolivar notes as illegitimate tender in just 72 hours.
In their stead, the Venezuela treasury began issuing a parade of new denomination, including 500-, 1,000-, 2,000-, 5,000-, 10,000-, and 20,000-bolívares notes.
And no sooner can these new notes be printed than their value is annihilated by Venezuela’s triple-digit inflation.
Those poor Venezolanos who couldn’t get to the bank in time to change their 100-bolivar notes in time got the worst end of the bargain.
In a matter of just three days, whatever cash they had in 100-bolivar notes (the largest denomination in circulation before the new notes arrived late last year) simply ceased to have any value (not that there was that much to buy in Venezuela in the first place, since shortages of food, medicine and just about everything else are the daily norm).
This was not the first time that Maduro and his merry band of financial madmen have wreaked economic havoc on the country.
In 2016, Venezuela earned the dubious distinction of being the nation with the world’s highest inflation.
Nearly three-quarters of the population last year reported that they could not even obtain the most basic food products, and, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) figures, Venezuela’s negative growth rate (at a staggering -8 percent) is the worst on Earth.
Unemployment in Venezuela officially stands at 17 percent (which many analysts claim is underreported), and that figure is expected to climb to 30 percent in the next two years.
Maduro’s popularity is at an all-time low as riots and protest marches grind the nation’s productivity levels to a near-standstill.
Hunger, desperation and criminality threaten to upend Venezuela’s last remnants of civility and social order.
True to form, Maduro keeps trying to paint the United States as the culprit behind his country’s economic and social woes, but the Venezuelan people are no longer swallowing his piss-and-vinegar rhetoric.
They don’t want bombastic anti-American speechmaking; they want jobs, food and medicine.
And Maduro is going to have to find a way to deliver on those demands or face the death of his own government … and maybe his nation.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.