Venezuela is barely surviving

MIAMI – They’re replacing Frisbees with credit cards on the streets of Venezuela. The recession is compounding the crisis in the oil rich, emigre nation, which has seen a wave of violent crime and…

Venezuela is barely surviving

MIAMI – They’re replacing Frisbees with credit cards on the streets of Venezuela.

The recession is compounding the crisis in the oil rich, emigre nation, which has seen a wave of violent crime and a torrid oil market that has left the national economy $30 billion in debt, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The nation is enduring an era of blackouts and food shortages that have resulted in burned-out motorbikes, overdosing kids and explosions that have killed an estimated 140 people so far this year. Officials say the economy could shrink by 30 percent.

There’s another major problem — its currency. It’s worth just 32 cents.

With so much money trapped in the nation, Venezuela’s Central Bank, has resorted to laying out old $100 bills, which have become worthless, in hopes of encouraging people to withdraw money and move it out of the country.

It’s been working for about a month.

The first week of this month, the amount of cash removed from circulation was $4.1 billion — nearly as much as the U.S. Mint issues in one day.

“It’s chaos. The Central Bank is spending more money than it can afford to,” said Hans Attard, the former governor of the central bank, who tried to oversee a controversial reorganization plan that resulted in his ouster in April. “It’s a necessity to remove money from circulation in order to make it easier to transact — we know this to be the case.”

He spoke on the sidelines of the upcoming premier of a documentary film “The Contradictions” at the 2018 Miami International Film Festival, in which he and others focus on the country’s struggle for survival.

Since those problems began in 2015, the nation has seen a number of executions in public squares, attacks on currency exchange centers, high schools having to enforce a dress code for students and street protests, such as a full-day walkout that involved 7 million people.

With the police thinned by such a constant stream of demonstrations, groups of crime suspects have broken into banks, tried to pillage an ATM and gone on looting runs.

The Central Bank says it’s powerless to police the streets, and says crime has skyrocketed as more Venezuelans have turned to crime to make ends meet.

The troubles have spread beyond Caracas. Long time, price-controlled and subsidized staple items such as eggs, meat and milk have turned to ATM fees on supermarket shelves after the bolivar dropped in value.

Devastated by years of heavy-handed socialist economic policies, citizens have abandoned hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland and sold government-issued homes for dollars on the street.

The spiraling crime scene has also spread far beyond the country’s capital city. Over 50 homicides per day have been reported for several months now.

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