A new socialist “economic offensive” intended to repair the crumbling Venezuelan economy has businessowners alarmed that they will be submitted to new fines and sanctions. President Nicolás Maduro announced yesterday that he was once again taking the fight to capitalist “parasites” by cracking down on “speculative capitalism.”
In an announcement that followed a visit from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Maduro proposed a three-pronged plan to repair the Venezuelan economy: a stronger focus on production, limiting scarcity, and controlling the prices of key goods. He took the opportunity to attack neighboring Colombia for becoming what he considered a black market for goods. “40% of products that should go to Venezuelan families is being taken to Colombia by the mafia,” he claimed, without specifying which goods or who this “mafia” is.” He later redefined the enemy as “the madness of speculative capitalism and parasites that want to create their wealth sticking their hands on the pockets of the working class.”
Infobae reports that business owners are fearful of what these new measures may mean–measures put into effect unilaterally thanks to the decree powers that Maduro endowed upon himself last November, effectively destroying separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches. Maduro’s emphasis on ensuring “fair” prices for goods triggered concerns that he would impose stronger sanctions on individual business owners who refuse to sell products at the unreasonably low prices that Maduro’s government demands. They are also concerned that a second wave of Maduro reforms will collapse the government entirely–last November’s first round of “economic offensives” raised inflation to 56 percent.
The government’s imposition of ration cards and inability to regulate the economy has taken a significant toll on the OPEC nation, with little signs of the situation improving. One economist speaking to El Tiempo explained that the economic problems facing Venezuela have many sources, but primary among them is the Venezuelan National Bank’s tendency to print money it simply does not have. José Guerra explained that the bank “prints money without backing and has increased its liquidity at an annual rate of 80%.” The economic woes have resulted in a scarcity of basic goods and even power outages in opposition towns, an unprecedented display of poverty in a nation with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
Venezuela’s economic problems are the other side of a deeply troubled coin in which apolitical Venezuelans are prevented from buying necessary goods and those with political tendencies are barred from expressing their opinions or jailed. The Venezuelan government has arrested thousands since the detention of Popular Will opposition leader Leopoldo López, and been accused of torturing and beating hundreds of unarmed students. The offensive has resulted in the country’s largest university being abandoned to ruin, and 41 individuals, mostly young protesters, dead.