Category Archives: South America

November 11, 2017

Socialism: Venezuela’s Minimum Wage Crashes to Under Four Dollars a Month

The monthly minimum wage in the socialist country of Venezuela has crashed to under four dollars a month as hyperinflation continues to crush the country’s shattered economy.

Despite dictator Nicolás Maduro’s five minimum wage hikes over the course of 2017, the monthly minimum wage of 177,507 bolivares is equivalent to $3.41, working out at just over two cents an hour, according to latest real value exchange rates.

Venezuelans also receive a monthly food ticket of 279,000 bolivares a month, bringing people’s total monthly income to around approximately nine dollars a month.

Maduro confirmed last week that the government would debut a new 100,000 Bolivar bill, making it the highest denomination note released in modern Venezuelan history. The move comes less than a year after he tried to relieve pressure on consumers by releasing 500, 1000, 2000, 10,000, and 20,000 bolivar notes, although all of these notes now all have a value of well under half a dollar.

While, ten years ago, a 100 Bolivar note could buy a television, it is now worth just over one cent, with the currency having lost over 99.99 percent of its value since 2010. Yet rates of inflation continue to accelerate amid fears of a default on the country’s colossal debt.

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September 27, 2017

In Venezuela, they were teachers and doctors. To buy food, they became prostitutes

It’s not just a border phenomenon. Fidelia Suarez, the president of Colombia’s Union of Sex Workers, said her organization has seen a dramatic influx of “Venezuelan women and men working in the sex trade” across the country.

At a squat, concrete brothel on the muddy banks of the Arauca River, Gabriel Sánchez rattled off the previous jobs of the women who now sell their bodies at his establishment for $25 an hour.

“We’ve got lots of teachers, some doctors, many professional women and one petroleum engineer,” he yelled over the din of vallenato music. “All of them showed up with their degrees in hand.”

And all of them came from Venezuela.

As Venezuela’s economy continues to collapse amid food shortages, hyperinflation and U.S. sanctions, waves of economic refugees have fled the country. Those with the means have gone to places like Miami, Santiago and Panama.

The less fortunate find themselves walking across the border into Colombia looking for a way, any way, to keep themselves and their families fed. A recent study suggested as many as 350,000 Venezuelans had entered Colombia in the last six years.

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July 17, 2017

Adiós to Venezuelan democracy

Nicolás Maduro prepares a “caricature of a caricature” of Cuba.

Constitutions, like diamonds, are supposed to last. But that is not the view of Nicolás Maduro, a former bus driver chosen by a dying Chávez to replace him as president in 2013. He has ordered a new constituent assembly, to be chosen on July 30th. Everything about the process is different from 1999. In violation of Chávez’s constitution, it has been called by presidential decree rather than by referendum.

Mr Maduro says its purpose is to defeat the opposition’s “fascism”. Yet it will be chosen under a system that might have been devised by Mussolini. Each of the 340 municipalities will elect one assembly member, regardless of size (only state capitals will get two), meaning the opposition-supporting cities are under-represented. A further 181 members will be chosen from communal and occupational groups controlled by the regime.

Mr Maduro wants the assembly because he can no longer stay in power democratically. Low oil prices and mismanagement have exacted a heavy toll. Food and medicines are scarce; diseases long curbed, such as diphtheria and malaria, are killing once more. The opposition won a big majority in a legislative election in 2015. Since then Mr Maduro has ruled by decree and through the puppet supreme court. In almost daily opposition protests since April, 75 people have been killed, many shot by the National Guard or pro-regime armed gangs.

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July 6, 2017

3D imaging reveals the face of a female Peruvian ruler 1,700 years after her elaborately tattooed body was wrapped in 20 layers of fabric and buried with a treasure trove of gold

The Lady of the Cao was found in Peru in 2005 buried with weapons and gold. Her arms and legs were covered with tattoos of snakes and spiders. Scientists have now recreated her face using digital forensics technology. The aristocrat first had her picture taken with a handheld laser scanner. Researchers then used her skull to reconstruct her face into a full-scale model.

She died in her twenties some 1,700 years ago and ruled over a desert valley in ancient Peru, where her elaborately tattooed body was wrapped in 20 layers of fabric and buried with weapons and gold objects.

But a glimpse of the former priestess, the Lady of Cao, can now be seen in a replica of her face unveiled by culture officials and archaeologists on Monday.

Using 3D forensics technology, the replica was based on the Lady of Cao’s skull structure and took 10 months to create.

The international team of researchers behind the effort, led by experts at Peru’s El Brujo museum where the mummy is currently on display, first took pictures of the Lady of Cao’s remains with a state-of-the-art, handheld laser scanner.

The scanner was designed for industrial use and is now commonly used in forensic investigations.

The scanned data was then entered into a computer, which digitally stripped away her facial skin to reveal her skull bones.

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June 27, 2017

Starving Venezuelans Risk 60 Miles of Open Ocean to Barter for Food

The Marxist Maduro regime is being propped up by neigboring countries that continue to support and do business with it, despite the atrocities. Wall Street is involved as well, with Goldman Sachs coming under fire for buying $2.8 billion worth of bonds (now named “hunger bonds”) for pennies on the dollar.

The end stages of socialism in Venezuela are forcing citizens to do anything they can to obtain food for themselves and their families, including risking their lives. Mariana Revilla, a medical doctor reduced to making midnight excursions over 60 miles of open ocean to feed her family, was making her fifth trip to Trinidad when her boat capsized, costing her her life and the lives of two others assisting her.

Her boat contained seven tons of flour, sugar, and cooking oil that she had obtained through barter at one of the west coast towns of Trinidad, exchanging them for the tons of fresh shrimp she had brought with her. Others making the midnight trips would take with them anything of value to exchange for food and basic necessities, making the boats look like a floating garage sale: plastic chairs, house doors, ceramic cooking pots, and even exotic animals such as iguanas and macaws to trade for food.

Socialists promise that such things could never happen in the “paradise” they are determined to build.

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June 13, 2017

The Fruits of Socialism: Venezuela in 20 Photos

As Venezuela enters year eighteen of the Bolivarian Socialist Revolution, the international community is finally paying attention, as Venezuelans struggle to find food, medicine, and an outlet for their frustration that will not trigger rampant state violence.

There is no short version of the story of how South America’s wealthiest nation, which boasts the world’s largest known oil reserves, became a nation where 15 percent of people need to scavenge through garbage to eat while the nation’s dictator dances on state television. Venezuela’s decline is the inevitable endgame of socialism, told by the deterioration of its streets, the abuse of its opposition politicians, and the use of the military to maim and kill Venezuelan children as young as 14.

Below, 20 images show the true toll of socialism in Venezuela.

December 2011: While the death of Hugo Chávez allowed for socialist leaders to rapidly develop the cult of personality around him as a saint and martyr of socialism, the North Korea-like cult worship of Chávez began during his lifetime. In 2011, chavista government officials put together a Christian “nativity scene” depicting Chávez as the baby Jesus figure, surrounded by founding fathers such as Simón Bolívar. (L’encre Noir)

May 2011: As violent drug and gang activity flourished under Chávez, Venezuelans grew to fear murder at the hands of thugs so much that they prayed to dead thugs to protect them, creating idols known as “santos malandros”–”holy thugs“–and offering them small sacrifices in exchange for safety on urban streets. (AP Photo)

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June 6, 2017

Venezuela crisis forces women to sell sex in Colombia, fuels slavery risk

“The economic instability, the insecurity in Venezuela, it all becomes unbearable.”

As a humanitarian and political crisis in neighboring Venezuela deepens, a growing number of Venezuelan women are working in bars and brothels across Colombia.

“I didn’t do this in Venezuela. I never ever imagined I’d be doing this in Colombia,” said Maria, who declined to give her real name, to Reuters.

She charges $17 for 15-minutes of sex, and the money earned is spent on buying medicine for her mother who has cancer.

For the past year, she has traveled back and forth from Bogota to Venezuela’s capital Caracas every 90 days, before her tourist visa expires, carrying medicine, food and soap.

“I’m ashamed I have to do this. It’s a secret,” said Maria, 26, who has told her family she is a traveling salesperson.

Venezuelan migrants are often lured by false promises of well-paid work in Colombia’s restaurants and bars or as domestic workers.

But then they find they are forced to work long hours with little or no pay, are not free to leave the bar they work in, and may be trapped by debts owed to the agents who brought them across the border.

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May 30, 2017

Venezuela opposition accuses Goldman Sachs of financing dictatorship

“Given the unconstitutional nature of Nicolas Maduro’s administration, its unwillingness to hold democratic elections and its systematic violation of human rights, I am dismayed that Goldman Sachs decided to enter this transaction.”

The president of Venezuela’s opposition-run Congress on Monday accused Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs of “aiding and abetting the country’s dictatorial regime” following a report that it had bought $2.8 billion in bonds from the cash-strapped country.

The Wall Street Journal on Sunday said Goldman paid 31 cents on the dollar for bonds issued by state oil company PDVSA that mature in 2022, or around $865 million, citing five people familiar with the transaction.

That comes as two months of opposition protests against President Nicolas Maduro have killed almost 60 people and the collapse of the country’s socialist economy has left millions of people struggling to eat.

“Goldman Sachs’ financial lifeline to the regime will serve to strengthen the brutal repression unleashed against the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans peacefully protesting for political change in the country,” wrote Julio Borges in a letter to Goldman Sachs President Lloyd Blankfein.

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May 5, 2017

10 Famous People Who Praised Venezuela’s Descent Into Socialist Hell (Video)

Nearly two decades of socialism has left oil-rich Venezuela in an unparalleled crisis.

Recent figures show that a majority of Venezuelans go to bed hungry and 15 percent of people eat garbage to survive. The country desperately lacks basic resources, such as medicine and power.

Mass protests and riots are now breaking out across the country, as dictator Nicolas Maduro attempts to discard the Venezuelan constitution to tighten his grip on power.

However, Venezuela’s problems date back to 1999, with the election of socialist president Hugo Chávez, whose mass redistribution of wealth and financial mismanagement laid the groundwork for the country’s economic collapse.

Like his successor, Chávez was an authoritarian who clamped down on press freedom and regularly locked up his opponents. His government also funded gangs known as colectivos, tasked with intimidating poor communities into supporting him, while distributing pro-government propaganda across the country.

Nevertheless, Chávez’s regime received plaudits from numerous left-wing academics, politicians, and celebrities who have now gone quiet on the matter. Here are ten of the most prominent examples.

Noam Chomsky

The darling of the left, retired MIT professor Noam Chomsky was a supporter of Chávez’s Venezuela and his anti-Americanism, arguing that he brought forward the “historic liberation of Latin America” proving “destructive to the rich oligarchy.”

Chomsky also described claims that Chávez had suppressed press freedom as a “bit of a joke,” arguing that there was “much more of an opposition press than there is in most of Latin America.”

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April 19, 2017

Venezuelan Oligarchs Who Robbed Country Bring Cash and Corruption to Miami and Houston

“They come here to enjoy the fruits of their ill-gotten gains.”

More than 1.5 million Venezuelans have fled into the diaspora spurred by the election of Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s predecessor, as president in 1998. Many settled in the United States, including in Houston — lured by its oil and gas jobs — and Miami, the American metropolis closest to South America. Some are poor and working-class Venezuelans in search of economic opportunity. Some are professionals who were purged by the Chávez government. And some are the same corrupt businessmen who stole billions from the Venezuelan government and plunged the country into the worst economic crisis Latin America has seen in a generation.

“They go out and they buy the most expensive house, the most exotic cars, the fastest airplanes,” says Otto Reich, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. “They do it here in the United States because they’re afforded the personal security that their fellow citizens are denied in Venezuela… they come here to enjoy the fruits of their ill-gotten gains.”

Venezuelans call them boligarchs, a portmanteau of “bolívar” (Venezuela’s currency) and “oligarch.” Hundreds hide in plain sight in Venezuelan enclaves such as Weston, Florida; and Katy, Texas. These American boligarchs include Roberto Rincón and Abraham Shiera, a pair of Venezuelan businessmen who bilked their country’s state-run oil company, PDVSA (PAY-duh-veh-suh), out of $1 billion before they were caught.

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