An AP reporter collides with reality

AP:

The government of President Nicolas Maduro blames the U.S. and right-wing business interests for the economic collapse, but most economists say it actually stems from government-imposed price and currency distortions. (Sigh: price controls equal supply and quality shortages and not control of prices.) There often seemed to be a direct line between economic policy and daily hardship. One week, the administration declared that eggs would now be sold for no more than 30 cents a carton. The next week, eggs had disappeared from supermarkets, and still have not come back.

Then true hunger crept into where I lived. People started digging through the trash at all hours, pulling out vegetable peelings and soggy pizza crusts and eating them on the spot. That seemed like rock bottom. Until my local bakery started organizing lines each morning, not to buy bread but to eat trash. People waited for their turn to hunt through black bags of bakery garbage. A young woman found a box of muffin crumbs. A teenage boy focused on finding juice containers and drinking whatever remained.

crime has become so pervasive that it fades into the background of even the swankiest places. One afternoon, I walked past two men in motorcycle helmets talking with customers on a restaurant patio. When I asked the cashier inside for a bottle of water, she gave me a funny look. Once the men left, she explained that they had just robbed everyone outside at gunpoint. Hadn’t I noticed? People rarely call for help, and with the murder rate surging to become the highest in the world, it’s easy to understand why. Thugs killed a young doctor at the end of my block when he accidentally dropped his cellphone during a daylight robbery.

Over the course of three years, I said good-bye to most of those friends, as well as regular long-distance phone service and six international airline carriers. I got used to carrying bricks of rapidly devaluing cash in tote bags to pay for meals. We still drove to the beach, but began hurrying back early to get off the highway before bandits came out. Stoplights became purely ornamental because of the risk of carjackings.

The first thing the muscled-up men did was take my cellphone. They had stopped me on the street as I left an interview in the hometown of the late President Hugo Chavez and wrangled me into a black SUV. Heart pounding in the back seat with the men and two women, I watched the low cinderblock homes zoom by and tried to remember the anti-kidnapping class I’d taken in preparation for moving to Venezuela. The advice had been to try to humanize yourself. “What should we do with her?” the driver asked. The man next to me pulled his own head up by the hair and made a slitting gesture across his throat.

Utterly predictable, Bernie. She’ll never win the Walter Duranty prize with writing like this. Hmmm, maybe more reporters should be sent to Venezuela for real re-education. Final point: imagine how much worse it is in North Korea with Fat Boy. HT: PL

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