World Economy

Venezuela Reels Under Failing Economy

Venezuela Reels Under Failing EconomyVenezuela Reels Under Failing Economy

For Venezuelans living in Tampa and across Florida, the news from home is painful to hear this Christmas season, with a growing economic crisis, a popular uprising and a harsh government crackdown.

Feb. 12 will mark the one-year anniversary of civil unrest in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, against the regime of President Nicolas Maduro. The violence of the past 10 months has left more than 1,400 dead and thousands behind bars or injured. Much of the anger on the streets arises from Maduro’s inability to restart a failing economy, NewsNow reported.

Citizens face shortages of basic necessities such as bread, toilet paper and milk. Inflation has risen to 63 percent, and many believe — with Venezuela’s economy heavily dependent on oil prices that now are in a tailspin — the country will enter a period of hyperinflation in the next few months.

 “It is expected that the situation will worsen because the administration has not been able to show any improvement in any area, but especially in economic management,” said Carlos Escalante, director of the Inter-American Center for Political Management, an analysis group in Miami.

In terms of governance, Escalante said, Maduro has been unable to come up a formula for turning around the shortage of essential goods or dealing with what has become the world’s highest inflation rate.

What’s more, other analysts say, his government opposes one measure that might turn the problem around.

“A massive devaluation would perhaps be the only solution, but they are against that,” said Jorge Salazar Carrillo, professor of economics at Florida International University in Miami. “They are handling the economy as if they were in kindergarten.”

The US Congress this week passed sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials to freeze their US assets and deny them visas. President Barack Obama, who balked at the measures during the height of the Maduro crackdown, now has signaled he will sign them.

“We have gone to Washington to raise our voices against the Venezuelan government,” said Norma Camero Reno, president of the Tampa-based Organized Movement of Venezuelan People Abroad.

Camero, a lawyer, helped spark the successful campaign for sanctions by rallying the local Venezuelan community. She said her group will continue to “fight for democracy.”

The sanctions measure was sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and co-sponsored by both of Florida’s senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson. It is a beefed-up version of similar legislation penned by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, of Weston, head of the Democratic National Committee.

Many seem to think the sanctions will do little more than stoke the flames between Caracas and Washington. The countries have had limited diplomatic relations since pulling their respective ambassadors in 2010.