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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