1984 – Venezuela

Scroll this

Sinopsis – Ongoing project

During his 14 years as President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the oil price reached a peak of 115 dollars per barrel, which served to finance a policy of subsidies and allowed the country to show off itself as the less unequal country of Latin America, based on the data forwarded by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

Today, however, with crude oil prices weakened by more than 60 per cent of those figures, the Bolivarian dream has become completely unsustainable. Another UN agency, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal), warns that poverty is growing in Venezuela at a faster rate than elsewhere in the area. Thus, redemption of Venezuelan poor seems to have been just a flash in the pan.

 

A grafity with the eyes of Chavez in las Mercedes neighborhood.  License  Ι Buy Print    
 
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
 

As a matter of fact, Venezuela – the country which has the largest oil reserves in the world – currently shows the world’s worst economic growth rates, with record levels of unemployment and inflation. Its supermarkets lack basic everyday products, and its hospitals do not have essential medicines; utilities, like gas and electricity, are rationed, and the country has become one of the world’s most violent nations.

People is facing a chaotic situation to get the most basic and necessary products. It is almost impossible for them to think about a house of their own, or a new or a second hand motor vehicle. The professional class is the one that has been hardest hit by the impact of inflation, considering the nature of their efforts to maintain a quality of life which is gradually fading away.

street artist performs his show on Urdaneta Avenue in Caracas License  Ι Buy Print    
A women walks past a grafity with the face of Chavez in Caracas.  License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

The economic decline has been aggravated in the last five years, and worsened with Maduro’s accession to power. In fact, there are many citizens who repeat the following phrase: «I am a Chavista, but not a Madurista». They are people who acknowledge that they voted for Maduro «by love for Chávez».

The chavista revolution was a promise that bedazzled a country which, without any effort on its part, would turn to be the most powerful nation in Latin America. Hugo Chávez came into power as a seller of illusions, who manipulated the emotions of a people who was already tired of the then prevailing two-party system. On that night of 6 December 1998, in his speech to celebrate his election victory, Chávez, in front of the huge crowd that hailed him, make those promises that everybody wanted to hear. One of the most magnificent promises was to put an end to the problem of street children. “I solemnly declare that I am not going to allow just one street child more: or I will no longer call myself Hugo Chávez Frías”

A group of Chavez supporters inside a car. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

The Bolivarian Revolution is heading towards a crossroads, plunged into a long and deep political polarisation, with significant social and financial imbalances. For many years, investments were made in a false Venezuela. The one which was doomed to failure by the ideological intoxication of a military man who was a slave of black gold, a demagogue endowed with a natural gift for wickedness, who aroused hatred and violence making use of the fanciful dreams of Bolívar, not to transit towards a true democracy, but to sustain a fascist regime stuffed with populist militarism, in the best style of Khadafi, Perón, Velasco Alvarado and Fidel.

A Chavista Parmilitary group, “colectivo”.  License  Ι Buy Print    
The body of a civilian killed by a Collectivo group. License  Ι Buy Print    
A family mourns at the funeral of a man who was shot dead by a “colectivo”. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧   License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

The easiest way to keep his project rolling was to maintain a climate of terror, to enjoy a total control over the population through urban paramilitary groups that enjoyed total immunity. These groups may take an action and the government will abide by it, as they were created for that purpose. The motto insistently sustained by Chávez during his term of office was that his process of change in Venezuela was backed by the force of weapons: “Our revolution is a peaceful one, but it is also an armed one and, in case that bourgeoisie rises again with their weapons, we would also use our weapons, do not forget that”

The interior of the headquarters of a Colectivo. License  Ι Buy Print    
A woman during a spiritual session.  License  Ι Buy Print    
believers of Maria Leonza in the neighborhood of Petare. License  Ι Buy Print    
 
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

The lack of medicines and goods is directly related to the difficulties in importing, since the National Government controls the foreign currency market and delays the relevant authorisations through a bureaucratic wave. A report submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organisation of American States (OAS), that had been prepared by the Venezuelan Program for Human Right Education and Action (Provea) points out that the shortages of medicines and goods exceeds 90% at national level. According to the official figures provided by the Government and the Health Authorities, only 15% of those fails are admitted.

The day of the funeral of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

The collapse

Venezuela is submersed into a shortage of supplies. To find a product becomes a true pain in the neck for the citizens, who must visit at least seven shops per week to complete their purchases. Those days where large cargoes arrived to the ports and the national production helped to fill supermarkets are a thing of the past. The streets of Caracas, since very early in the morning, are filled with desperate crowds seeking the most essential products of their staple diet, including rice, coffee, milk, oil or corn flour. Huge crowds of people gather outside the establishments of the state-owned network of groceries (Mercal, Pdval and Bicentenario), since these are the shops where supplies usually arrive.

 

A woman inside one of the major supermarkets in Caracas. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

Concerns about shortages have made people become goods hoarders, and they purchase things they do not need, in fear that they become no longer available. Shortages in a nation as rich as Venezuela cannot be understood until they are actually witnessed. Everything is strange, and most often, what is said is not what is seen, and vice versa. For example, restaurants are usually full, and most supermarkets are flooded with goods: liquors, natural and canned juices… but when you order at a restaurant, maybe that you can only choose one half of the suggestions, and when you go to the supermarket, the shelves are usually flooded with a single product, probably of the same brand, which is repeated time and again along the corridors.

A group of civilians queuing to get gas. Shortages in Venezuela is total.  License  Ι Buy Print    
A group of civilians queuing to buy food.
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

The cabinet headed by Nicolás Maduro decreed a fair sales price for all goods, which led to the disappearance of the basic essential goods and foods, but this began when late President Hugo Chávez introduced in 2003 a system of controlled exchange, trying to prevent capital flight from the country and to control the price of basic foods, which means that those Venezuelans who require dollars to import goods or to travel abroad must necessarily go to a State Agency, where they can buy them at a exchange rate imposed by the government, which is called «preferential»

The amount of dollars available at such rate is very scarce, which led to the emergence of a black market in currencies, which has become very distorted today. Merchants have to buy dollars at the black market if they want to import goods, and consequently, they must charge high prices to obtain profits. The result of this situation is that Venezuela is dependent on imports. According to the Documentation and Analysis Center of the Venezuelan Federation of School Teachers (Cendas-FVM), in the survey published in August this year, seven basic shopping basket products increased their price. This indicates that the difference between the controlled prices and the actual market prices ranges around 18,000.4%. And as far as the shortage of some items is concerned, they note that 14 products were detected during the field research that are never found on the shelves.

Venezuelan Hospitals are fully stocked and do not have any medicines.  License  Ι Buy Print    
Venezuelan Hospitals are fully stocked and do not have any medicines. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

Shortages in Venezuela are not exclusive of food markets, where essential goods are hardly seen and, when they are sold, consumers have to stand in endless queues in front of shops, but also in front of hospitals. The actual problem is how to access the supermarket; desperate men and women, struggling to be treated at the Emergency Department. However, only a few of them are lucky enough, since many of the specialities are paralysed due to a lack of materials. Hospitalization rooms are desolated and wasted.

The lack of medicines and goods is directly related to the difficulties in importing, since the National Government controls the foreign currency market and delays the relevant authorisations through a bureaucratic wave. A report submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organisation of American States (OAS), that had been prepared by the Venezuelan Program for Human Right Education and Action (Provea) points out that the shortages of medicines and goods exceeds 90% at national level. According to the official figures provided by the Government and the Health Authorities, only 15% of those fails are admitted.

General image of the interior of the living room of Ali Gamboa, a Chavista militant.  License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

%

Hospitales Desabastecidos en Venezuela

%

Desabastecimiento Productos Primera Necesidad en Venezuela

The components of a major criminal gang from Caracas in the Venezuelan capital controling their neighborhood from a strategic point to avoid a police raid. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

The kingdom of violence

To speak about robberies and kidnappings or to count the dozens of casualties left by a weekend in Caracas would be like talking about the scores of any sports league in a family get-together. There is a feeling of overflown security. 75% of Venezuelans consider that civil unrest has increased during the last 12 months, according to the Second Survey on organised Crime in Venezuela, carried out by the civil association Paz Activa, with the support of the Europen Union (EU).

Tears, pain, anger and the smell of death outside the Bello Monte morgue of Caracas are part of the day-to-day history that must be faced by those people who go there to identify any victim. Figures have no limits. According to non-official figures, around 18 corpses are registered every day, which pictures a country which is apparently in the throes of a civil war.

Catia. one of the many slums in Caracas. License  Ι Buy Print    
Police from the municipality of Sucre during an operation in the neighborhood of Petare
INFO ∧
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

Venezuela has an estimated rate of 82 murders per every 100,000 citizens, and the country will probably rank second in the world ranking of homicides, only second to Honduras. 24.980 violent deaths were recorded in 2014. These figures have been provided by the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a NGO which carries out an on-going monitoring of information through press dossiers and other informal channels, since in 2004 the Government prohibited the police bodies and other official agencies to offer statistics on violence and crime to the media.

Working-class districts of Caracas are bustling with armed gangs. No one knows how many fire weapons remain in Venezuela, although some estimates suggest a figure ranging from 10 to 14 millions, in a country that numbers 30 million inhabitants.

The insecurity issue is not exclusive to the Chávez years. In 1999, when the late Hugo Chávez came to power, the official figure was 19 homicides per every 100.000 individuals, which could already be considered a critical situation. What cannot be understood is why this figure was multiplied.

A group of prisoners locked in their cells inside the municipal police station of Chacao, located east of Caracas. License  Ι Buy Print    
A group of prisoners locked in their cells inside the municipal police station of Chacao. License  Ι Buy Print    
A group of prisoners locked in their cells inside the municipal police station of Chacao. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

Lynch mobs have grown in the last years. Citizens prefer to take the law into their own hands, in view of the corruption of security agencies and judicial impunity. The most recent case was the one reported at the facilities of the Caracas underground rail, at Los Cortijos station, when a man who had robbed a woman at Los Ruices housing development was savagely attacked by a group of citizens as he tried to escape. Several International Organisations, among them the Washington-based The World Justice Project, have analysed the inefficiency of the courts. In their criminal justice index, Venezuela ranks last among 97 countries.

To the violence issue we must add the overcrowding of prisons, that are packed tight. The population of correctional facilities in the whole country exceeds tenfold their capacity. The Ombudsman office estimates that the system exceeds its possibilities by more than 30,000 inmates.

The dead body of a young man belonging to a criminal gang lies in the morgue of a CDI located in the neighborhood of the Dolorita, Petare.  License  Ι Buy Print    
Fredy Guerrero’s wife desperate cries at the grave of her husband. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
Venezuela National Guard. . License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

A new dictatorship

For a period of months, the brutal repression unleashed against thousands of demonstrators who clashed every day with police forces, soldiers and paramilitary groups with stones, petrol bombs and cardboard shields has taken a heavy toll of more than 120 lives, 15,000 injuries and more than 5,000 arbitrary arrests, and most of the victims have suffered torture and harassment.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has focused its attention on the South American nation, and circulated a report at the end of August, which concluded that human rights violations and widespread abuses had occurred, which indicates the “existence of a policy aimed at suppressing political dissent and instil fear in the population, in order to discourage demonstrations”.

 

A Venezuelan opposition protester shows a poster denouncing the humanitarian crisis that exists in Venezuela against the police. License  Ι Buy Print    
Protesters opposed to the revolutionary government of Nicolas Maduro. License  Ι Buy Print    
Protesters opposed to the revolutionary government of Nicolas Matures, fleeing police during a march that ended with violence. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

This last stage of the crisis was unleashed by the election, on 30 July, of a so-called Constitutive Assembly, with broad powers to rewrite the Constitution, ignore the National Congress and order the arrest of the new Judges of the Supreme Court of Justice. The opposition denounced the fraud, but many of them are still ready to defend justice in the governors election. This has been perceived as a treason by many demonstrators, especially when many of them have died during the protests.

A woman cries in front of the police by the anguish of not hearing from her brother.  License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
Tachira Rebelion 2014. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

The picture is very confusing, and it is difficult to perceive an opposition with clear and precise goals, that raise a true result which benefits national interests. Each political party has its own agenda, which has led to a collective discouragement on the part of their followers. People do no longer believe in the eventual election results, since such participation legitimates the hijacking of the country and its institutions. Venezuelans are now trying to escape from this reality. The country, which owing to his historical wealth has always been an immigrant-receiving nation already has more than 2 million displaced persons, who had to emigrate for social economic and political reasons.

Liberties are more and more scarce as days pass by. The discriminatory policy against domestic and international press has intensified. There are very few foreign correspondents who are allowed to enter Venezuela, and they may also be expelled from the country or arrested, as a retaliation to prevent media coverage, especially in the context of demonstrations, food crisis, political prisoners, corruption and smuggling. The signal of international news channels has been blocked during the last year, and almost 50 local radio and TV broadcasters have been cancelled, as an additional proof of the establishment of a model of authoritarian government, seeking to impose a single viewpoint on Society as a whole.

The broken glass of the entrance to a condominium in San Cristobal after an attack by a pro-government paramilitary armed group.  License  Ι Buy Print    
Carmen Gonzales hugs her daughter remembering her son Jimmy Vargas, 34, who was killed by the Bolivarian National Guard. License  Ι Buy Print    
 Students opposed to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, holds a peace messeage. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

The chaotic situation in Venezuela is raising the hopes of some sectors that consider that a change of government will only be the consequence of a military uprising, since there are dissenting groups within the National Armed Forces, who have been arrested in the last months accused of being involved in an alleged insurrection plan.

Followers opponents Nicolas Maduro’s government during a political metting.  License  Ι Buy Print    
Followers opponents Nicolas Maduro’s government celebrated the electoral victory. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

However, the military leadership which surrounds the centres of power has filtered through to almost all levels of society and the State as a whole, they hold a large part of the ministerial offices, control frontiers, public safety, food, state banks, governorships, mayor’s offices, customs, ports and airports, which places them under the influence of the authoritarian regime, which has expanded and, despite all the international pressure, maintains its status of power at internal level.

The cockpit of a major Venezuelan television prepares one of the many special programs broadcast on President Hugo Chavez Frias. License  Ι Buy Print    
INFO ∧ License  Ι Buy Print    

Text by Jorge Benezra

Jorge Benezra is an independent television journalist and producer. He has been known for producing investigative documentaries and documentaries. He has made coverages in Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela. Its subjects are always linked to the armed territories, drug trafficking, jails and conflict zones in general. He is currently based in Venezuela. His works have been published for media such as: Fifth Day Weekly in Venezuela, Armando.info, Channel Four of Spain, Capa Capa de Francia Agency, Caracol Colombia, Time magazine, XLSemanal magazine in Spain, ABC.es, DiscoveryMax among others.