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Tap Runs Dry in Venezuela

A rash of looting has broken out in Venezuela as citizens frustrated with the country’s ongoing shortages of basic commodities are turning to violence and protest. Last summer, the oil-rich nation, led by the socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro, began imposing rations on necessities ranging from toilet paper to drinking water. Now the country is running out of another highly desired if less essential beverage: beer. From The Guardian:

Cervecería Polar, which distributes 80% of the beer in the socialist South American country, began shutting down breweries this week because of a lack of barley, hops and other raw materials, and has halted deliveries to Caracas liquor stores.

“This is never-never land,” said Yefferson Ramirez, who navigated a rush of disgruntled customers Thursday behind the counter at a liquor store in posh eastern Caracas. The store has been out of milk and bottled water for months, but the beer shortfall is causing a new wave of irritation.

Venezuela’s financial woes have worsened this year as the end of a decade-long oil boom has accentuated the economic incompetence of Maduro’s regime, which uses currency manipulation and price controls to (unsuccessfully) combat rampant inflation. As a result, the price of importing goods is too high for local businesses to bear, and therefore production in many cases has halted. As often happens in such a case, black markets have emerged for the reselling of hard-to-obtain goods at significant markups.

Maduro’s approval ratings have fallen steadily in recent months while his opposition has gained momentum, culminating in a successful call for elections this fall. If he hopes to remain in power, the president may want to pay mind to these ultimately human problems. As one local put it, “[t]ake away beer and things get risky.”

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  • Fat_Man

    Not to worry. There is plenty of Victory Gin.

  • britbob

    As a distraction to economic incompetence, Venezuela is ramping up its claim to much of neighbouring Guyana. Venezuela’s claim is based on its borders on independence from Spain under the legal doctrine of uti possidetis juris. Argentina makes a similar claim in respect of the Falklands. Google: ‘Falklands Uti Possidetis Juris & Nootka Sound Convention 1790’ to see why this legal doctrine cannot be used against Guyana.

  • GS

    They should turn to moonshining. Ages ago, in moscow, I [a teenager then] stumbled upon the method to purify the alcohol-based wood paint [an ink-like liquid] to a water-clear and barely drinkable condition [10x cheaper than vodka per alcohol unit]. “Knowledge belongs to the people!” – and implementing this socialist slogan, I taught the method to the muscovites. Within a month or two that brand of wood paint disappeared from all moscow hardware stores. 40-something years later I still recall seeing people carrying large sacks of these bottles, they had a pretty distinct labeling.

  • Boritz

    I don’t always agree with George Will but when I do it’s about beer. He has written about the war on beer in the U.S. in the form of an unreasonable and discouraging level of taxation. Don’t get thirsty my friend.

  • Gene

    The despots running Venezuela aren’t just incompetent at economics, they’re incompetent at despotism. Geez, if you can’t even get the bread [or beer] and circuses right …

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