World Economy

Venezuela Crises Deepen With Drought

Venezuela Crises Deepen With DroughtVenezuela Crises Deepen With Drought

A devastating drought has brought Venezuela, already facing economic and energy crises amid simmering political unrest, to the brink and threatens the future of the oil-rich nation.

“Simply put, a natural disaster is making a man-made disaster much worse,” said Donald Kingsbury, a professor of political science and Latin American studies at the University of Toronto, CBC reported.

The “man-made disaster,” in this case, is a heavily petroleum-dependent, state-run economy gutted by the precipitous drop in crude oil prices.

Inflation will reach 720% sometime this year, the International Monetary Fund estimates, and the economy will contract another 10%. Food staples and essential medicines are increasingly scarce. The costs of basic goods and services have skyrocketed. Incomes, for those lucky enough to still have one, are stagnant.

“People are fed up, from all over the political and social spectrum. At this point, it may not take much for things to erupt,” said Kingsbury.

The worst drought to hit Venezuela in almost half a century could be the catalyst, he said.

This week, for example, more than 1,000 police and military personnel were deployed to the western city of Maracaibo, where locals blocked roads with flaming barricades and looted shops for food. About 100 people were arrested.

Water levels in the Guri reservoir, which feeds Venezuela’s biggest and most critical hydroelectric dam, are dangerously low. Up to 70% of the electricity consumed by the country’s 30 million citizens comes from the dam.

So President Nicolas Maduro’s deeply unpopular administration recently started rationing electricity. With a few exceptions, notably Caracas, most areas of the country see daily four-hour blackouts at different times.