Abby Martin in Venezuela – Supermarkets to Black Markets

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Abby Martin talks to Venezuelans on the streets of Caracas and investigates the main claim that there’s no free press, and that there is no food in the supermarkets.

Using hidden cameras, she takes you through local grocery stores and the underground black market currency exchange, the main source of inflation in the country.

Abby sits down with economist Pasqualina Curzio to learn more about the nature of the black market and chronic shortages of goods. Knowing that world leaders are calling for foreign intervention, Abby finds out if locals agree.

Abby Martin Venezuela – Supermarkets to Black Markets

The Venezuelan opposition, their protests and their related conflicts receive significant press in the corporate media across the globe. But what about the other side? Supporters of the Venezuelan government engage in large protests that the media largely ignores. The atmosphere of these peaceful protests is noticeably different than those of the opposition movement and those present seem to have much to say. Why do the millions of voices standing up peacefully in support of their government have no presence in the media’s portrayal of the struggle in Venezuela?

The picture of a widely hated Venezuelan government is absolutely false and is a distraction from the actual struggles that Venezuelans face. While supporters of the opposition claim that there are few jobs, few rights, little food and no freedom of the press, supporters of the government counter with evidence of a free press, uncensored internet access and full restaurants and grocery store shelves.

“What media has done is distort all the information.”

On the streets of Caracas, where a majority of the large opposition protests take place, multiple newspapers fill newsstands, stores and cafes with new editions appearing daily. Not only are headlines supportive of the government found on the front pages of these papers, but more than half of the available papers blatantly support the opposition, their pages filled with images and opinions supporting the protestors and bewailing the government. In addition to newspapers, Venezuelans are free to consume news and entertainment via the internet and television with unobstructed access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and non-state-owned television stations. In fact, state-run television in Venezuela only reaches 8.4% of viewers. The censorship, if there is any, must be extremely hard to find and discern as it appears the press in Venezuela has much of the same freedoms found in many other countries, socialist or not.

“Not everything is as it seems in mainstream media.”

Another attention grabbing claim regarding the unrest in Venezuela is the significant and extreme lack of food. Wild claims such as zoo animals being stolen to be used as food and talk of lines in which Venezuelans wait for hours for food fill the corporate media coupled with shocking images of empty store shelves and physical struggles for food. The hours long lines portrayed as a grueling, everyday experience for most Venezuelans are not for food in general, they are mostly for bread and other common goods unique to Venezuela.

On a recent trip to Venezuela, Abby Martin explored this claim by visiting multiple supermarkets where she found aisles of fully stocked shelves and captured it on hidden camera footage. The only item missing being toilet paper, despite other paper products such as napkins and paper towels, being readily available. While it is true that high demand and commonly used products, such as toilet paper and pre-cooked corn flour, can be hard to find, it is not due to an economic crisis. Rather it is an economic war influencing the availability and cost of certain items. Despite the overall picture the media shares with the world, Venezuela has maintained a GDP per capita 9% higher during the last four years than in the last 30 years and the country’s unemployment rate is currently 6.6%, almost 3% lower than in neighboring Colombia.

Why are only certain mass produced goods affected and why is it that fruits and vegetables in the markets are fresh and readily available? It appears the market is being manipulated and sabotaged by the major corporations that are responsible for production and distribution. The CEO of Polar, one of the largest manufacturers of common food products in Venezuela, is a vocal opposition supporter who has been accused of hoarding goods.

These goods, that are seemingly absent in markets and stores of all sizes, can often be found in the illegal black market. If an economic crisis were prohibiting the manufacturing of these goods they would not exist within the black market. Instead these items are making their way into the illegal market often with a high price tag. The unusually high and variable exchange rate on the black market is seemingly inexplicable, inspired by DolarToday, a website based in the U.S. and run by a Venezuelan named Gustavo Díaz, who was granted political asylum and now resides in Texas, where he works at the local Home Depot.

The Venezuelan economy is indeed suffering and the people of Venezuela do have hurdles to overcome in this economic and political war, but the struggle is not cut and dry and mainstream media is certainly not shedding light on the full story. Despite calls for it by western media, when asked if Venezuela was in need of U.S. assistance, one supporter of the democratically-elected government stated simply, “We do not need any personality, nor some politician, much less a businessman, to come save us,” with others echoing similar sentiments.

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