How bad can it get?
Oil production has been falling while the much-touted natural gas resources are not being produced at all. Agricultural and manufacturing production is virtually gone. The wealth creation capacity of the nation has been disemboweled. This has caused massive importation of goods with no dollars to pay for them, driving the currency to 42/$ in Cucuta and emptying miles of store shelves, protected from view only by electricity blackouts. Printing more devalued currency has driven the implied annual inflation rate to 249.3% according to the economist Steve Hanke, not the 35.2% officials propagate, which is still the highest in the Americas.
As if the slide toward hyperinflation were not enough, Venezuela's streets are plagued by one of the highest murder, kidnapping, and extortion rates in the world, which are under-reported and rarely investigated, no less prosecuted. Corruption romps merrily through fields of cocaine, government procurement contracts, and money laundering. A 660% profit can be made by selling dollars in Cucuta. The newly super-rich and well-connected Boligarchs pop up in the same places where children go hungry and the poor get poorer. This is a revolution, all right, but not the one that was advertised.
There is no internal solution: the insiders have all the power and money, which they're holding onto tightly. And there is no external solution: international institutions -including the court for Human Rights- have all been expelled or replaced by the regime in charge. As Venezuela approaches the chaos of Syria, these terrible days may be remembered fondly as the last cocktail before the air crash. Last one out -don't worry about turning off the lights. They're already out.
Cristian Fonseca, a businessman in La Candelaria district downtown Caracas, was doing the accounts in his small shop office on Sunday December 21, 2008. The Christmas shopping season kept him working late hours into the night. It was around 11 p.m. and his phone rang. A friend broke the bad news to him over the telephone.