A $15 grocery run has cost two single mothers from Colombia 48 days in jail, along with the threat of a 14-year prison sentence, as a result of a crackdown on smuggling in Venezuela that is ratcheting up tensions and highlighting growing economic distortions between the neighbors.
Jenifer Rojas and Belsy Alvarez were arrested in early September by Venezuela’s national guard walking out of a supermarket in the western city of San Cristobal with bags of rice, pasta, mayonnaise and other staples whose prices are capped in Venezuela and whose sale is restricted to the country’s residents.
Right now they’re out on parole, along with the cashier, who also was arrested.
Back in September crossing the border with foodstuffs may have been profitable, but now, goods are bad,
My first shock was the grocery store when I went to refurbish my refrigerator. The prices went noticeably up in one month for the stuff I buy. There was no imported goods. Of course, among the goods available there is all sorts of imported stuff re-processed in Venezuela. After all we are importing now at the very least 60% of our food (estimates vary, I am giving you the bottom line). What I mean is that you could still find an occasional treat, like some average Italian pasta, or an overpriced jar of raspberry jam. This is now all gone. And it has not been replaced, even by sub-par Venezuelan production.
The real dough is in oil smuggling,
Caracas-based economist Asdrubal Oliveros recently estimated 130,000 barrels of gasoline are now smuggled across the border to Colombia each and every day.
That’s a big number. How big?
Well, assuming our men in uniform are bad at business and only make $65 per barrel sold (they’re wholesalers, after all), that would work out $8.5 million dollarsevery day, $253.5 million dollars a month, $3.08 billion a year.
You could make three thousand milicos millionaires for that kind of money, and still have spare change to cut another 843 of them $100,000 gifts. (Note: the government believes the amount is about $2.2 billion per year)
In some ways, the headline figure is actually quite small. It’s only a fifth of the $14-15 billion a year in foregone sales from subsidizing gasoline in the first place, andmuch less than the $25 billion a year we would be earning from extra oil produced in the Orinoco Belt if Chávez hadn’t muscled out our foreign partners in 2005-2006 and production had risen according to what was then the schedule, but hasn’t cuz, y’know, he did.
Don’t wonder, then, why there is no military coup in Venezuela. All that money is going somewhere.
Nicolás Maduro raised the minimum wage by 15% last night, starting December 1st.
Quickly, government news agencies began spewing the lie – there really is no other way to characterize it – that this was the highest minimum wage in Latin America, equivalent to US$ 776. The rub lies in the fact that this conversion is calculated using the official-yet-impossible-to-find exchange rate of BsF 6.3 per dollar – if you were to use the market exchange rate of BsF 102 per dollar, you get a minimum (and I mean really minimum) wage of US$ 48 per month.
That’s going to work as all Marxism has so far.
Report on 100% food inflation in Venezuela,
Could Low Oil Prices End Venezuela’s Revolution? The answer to that question may depend on the outcome of Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi trip this week to Venezuela.