Venezuela Seizes Medicine from Catholic Charity, Skips Talks with Opposition as Starving Residents Flee Country in Boats

Socialist Venezuela may not outlast Fidel Castro by much.


via Caracas Chronicles

The Venezuelan tax authority seized medicine from a Catholic charity coming through a channel set-up by Vatican-mediated talks, claiming the shipment lacked the proper customs paperwork, declaring it "legally abandoned" and "adjudicated" it to the social security administration, Caracas Chronicles reports.

"You'd think that would make for some awkwardness at the next set of talks, right?" writes the Chronicles' Francisco Toro. "Joke's on you: the government's not going to talks anymore, sucker!" Last week, the opposition said the Vatican-mediated talks were frozen after government officials ditched a scheduled meeting.

The opposition-controlled National Assembly launched an impeachment trial against President Nicolas Maduro last month, while the national election cancel rejected a bid for a recall vote against Maduro. The president's approval rating fell below 20 percent, a new low. According to a New York Times report on starving Venezuelans attempting to reach Curacao by boat, more than 150,000 Venezuelans have fled the country in the last year.

"As more and more people search for food every day, the future of the country looks bleak: there is rising crime, massive emigration, investment flight and corruption," France 24 reports. "Businesses are shuttering and tens of thousands of young people are dropping out of university, either to flee the country or to focus on helping their families survive."

The Venezuelan bolivar lost 45 percent of its value this month alone. The largest bill, a 100, is worth 5 cents on the black market, and wallets are no longer useful to carry currency. Last month, the government hiked the minimum wage, food subsidies, and public sector pay in an effort to quell protests.

Maduro is headed to an OPEC meeting in Vienna this week, hoping to get a deal to cut oil production in a bid to raise prices and stave off economic collapse, reports. China is putting in another $2.2 billion into Venezuela's oil infrastructure, with the amount of oil exported to China rising to 800,000 barrels a day from about 550,000 barrels a day. It's put in more than $60 billion in the last decade, estimates.

Venezuela declared three days of mourning after the death of Fidel Castro, with Maduro visiting the Caracas Revolution Museum near the mausoleum for Hugo Chavez, who enjoyed a close relationship with and provided oil subsidies to Castro. Maduro said Castro "was and will continue to be a living legend for all he did and still has to do." Cuba's reliance on cheap Venezuelan fuel has contributed to an economic downturn in Cuba as Venezuela's economy collapses.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's state prosecutor office announced it was charging 11 soldiers in the killing of 12 people found in a mass grave in Miranda that the opposition called a "massacre" that illustrated the country was descending into a dictatorship.

Two of Maduro's wife's nephews were convicted on drug trafficking charges in New York in what the Venezuelan president called an "imperialist attack" on his wife.

Related: Jim Epstein on the secret, dangerous world of bitcoin mining Venezuela in the latest issue of Reason magazine