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By Andrew Follett
Three-quarters of Venezuela’s population lost at least 19 pounds amid serious food shortages last year, according to new research.
A 2016 living conditions survey called Encovi conducted on 6,500 Venezuelan families found that 32.5 percent eat only once or twice a day. That’s about three times higher than the 11.3 percent answering the same question just a year ago, the survey found.
Encovi estimates 82 percent of Venezuelan households live in poverty.
Venezuela isn’t experiencing a famine, but instead, is living with the consequences of decades of socialist policies. Price controls force businesses to sell food at low prices, encouraging farmers to sell on the black market or outside the country. For example, Venezuela requires cornmeal to sell for about 16 cents a bag, but the same cornmeal can sell for $3 dollars on the black market.
Cash-strapped Venezuela can’t pay for food imports after years of mismanagement, heavy spending on poorly-run government programs, and lack of investment on its oil fields. The government rejected food assistance from Amnesty International and the United Nations.
Venezuela also has some of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, but the collapse in crude oil prices is cutting into state coffers. The country can’t afford to pump oil at current prices, and as recently as February was forced to accept shipments of U.S. crude oil.
The nation formerly run by Hugo Chavez, deceased, also suffers from rolling blackouts that can last for days. Experts suggest the blackouts are causing serious economic damage.
“We have to understand, this is a war,” Luis Motta, Venezuela’s minister of electricity, said in March.
Venezuela gave the entire country a week off to reduce stress on the power grid caused by a government-created electricity crisis this summer. The government also set the nation’s clocks back by an hour and ordered women to stop blow-drying their hair to save power.
The government rationed electricity across the country for most of this year, as the hydroelectric-reliant country goes through a drought. The ruling socialist party blames the lack of water on global warming and “sabotage” by political foes, while critics and international officials cite a lack of maintenance and poor planning.
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