Francisco Toro (Continuación)

Venezuela’s president has ordered the central bank to withdraw all 100-bolivar bills from circulation following a bizarre, baseless announcement of a devious conspiracy hatched by the U.S. Treasury Department. (Miguel Gutierrez/European Pressphoto Agency)

The scale of the conspiracy is staggering: More than 300 million of Venezuela’s highest-denomination bank notes have been ferried out of the country in recent months. Huge stacks of 100-bolivar bills now sit in warehouses throughout Central and Eastern Europe — Poland, Ukraine, Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Macedonia — all part of a devious plot hatched by the U.S. Treasury Department. Working through local nongovernmental organizations and local mafia syndicates, the plotters have spirited the actual physical banknotes first by land to neighboring Colombia and later by air to Europe in an ambitious bid to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist government by choking off the supply of paper money, setting off chaos and destabilizing the economy.…  Seguir leyendo »

People line up to withdraw money from an ATM in Caracas on Thursday. (Federico Parra/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Venezuela has run out of cash. Not metaphorically, mind you: The country literally doesn’t have enough cash to go around.

Two weeks ago, facing an acute shortage of paper money, bank regulators capped cash withdrawals at 10,000 Venezuelan bolivars per day — about $5.25.

As I write this, following an almighty rout on the black market, those same 10,000 bolivars are worth less than half that much: $2.17. (By the time you read this, the real number’s likely lower.)

Stop and think about that: How on earth can a country work when the most cash anyone there is allowed to withdraw from their bank account in a day is two bucks and change?…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuban President Fidel Castro, right, with his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez, in July 2006. (Pablo Porciuncula/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

On May 8, 1967, two small boats carrying a dozen heavily armed fighters made landfall near Machurucuto, a tiny fishing village 100 miles east of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Their plan was to march inland and recruit Venezuelan peasants to the cause of socialist revolution.

The eight Venezuelans and four Cubans who took part in this mad adventure were on a mission from Fidel Castro. It was the heyday of Cuban agitation abroad, with Cuban-backed guerrilla cells spreading throughout Latin America.

The fighters sent to Machurucuto had bad luck, though. A local fisherman spotted their abandoned boats and notified the Venezuelan military.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro chant pro-government slogans outside the National Assembly in Caracas on Thursday. (Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press)

Venezuela’s long-simmering political crisis boiled over on the streets once again, with hundreds of thousands marching against the government. Peaceful protest rallies around the country were tear-gassed as cops showered opposition marchers with rubber pellets and armed, pro-government paramilitaries terrorized protesters.

It might feel as though you’ve read all this before, and indeed Venezuela has been unstable for so long that I can see how it could all just blur together for outside observers. But policymakers ignore this crisis at their peril. This time it’s different — and much more serious than what we’ve seen before.

Last week, a government-dominated electoral commission canceled the opposition’s effort to recall President Nicolás Maduro through a referendum, as set out in the constitution.…  Seguir leyendo »

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at a rally at in Caracas on June 14. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

All this year, as they trudged through an unprecedented economic implosion, Venezuelans have been gearing up for what was meant to be the defining political event of the year: a referendum on whether to recall our increasingly loathed authoritarian president, Nicolás Maduro. The tense buildup suddenly ended Thursday as five separate (and supposedly independent, but c’mon now) lower courts approved injunctions to suspend the recall, closing down Venezuela’s last best hope for a peaceful solution to its long-running political crisis.

Even for battle-hardened Venezuelans, it all came as quite a shock. A major signature-gathering drive to officially activate the recall vote was scheduled for next week.…  Seguir leyendo »

Thousands of people are expected to fan out in protest across Venezuela on Wednesday to demand a referendum for the removal of President Nicolás Maduro: His government has overseen an economic crisis that has decimated livelihoods throughout the country.

A so-called recall referendum may be held if 20 percent of registered voters in each state sign a petition at the end of this month.
Even if they do, however, a meaningful recall vote is far from guaranteed. Under the Constitution new elections won’t take place if the referendum is scheduled after Jan. 10. In that case, and if Mr. Maduro is voted out, the vice president will serve the remaining two years of Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

A national guard member patrols a supermarket in Caracas in February of last year. (Juan Barreto/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/Getty Images)

Today, Venezuela is the sick man of Latin America, buckling under chronic shortages of everything from food and toilet paper to medicine and freedom. Riots and looting have become commonplace, as hungry people vent their despair while the revolutionary elite lives in luxury, pausing now and then to order recruits to fire more tear gas into crowds desperate for food.

Not long ago, the regime that Hugo Chávez founded was an object of fascination for progressives worldwide, attracting its share of another-world-is-possible solidarity activists. Today, as the country sinks deeper into the Western Hemisphere’s most intractable political and economic crisis, the time has come to ask some hard questions about how this regime — so obviously thuggish in hindsight — could have conned so many international observers for so long.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week, world soccer’s governing body, FIFA, again proved its knack for producing compelling spectacles that glue millions to their TV screens. But this time, rather than Messi and Neymar, the show starred the Swiss police, America’s attorney general and Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s wounded but unbowed chief, as he fought to keep his job even as 14 of his top lieutenants faced U.S. indictments under RICO: the anti-racketeering law originally designed to fight the Mafia.

The danger is that the breathtaking venality laid bare in the Justice Department’s indictment will lull us into thinking a change of personnel is all it will take to reform FIFA.…  Seguir leyendo »

Simpatizantes del Presidente Maduro en un evento con comida gratuita auspiciado por el gobierno de Venezuela

En una tierra muy, muy lejana, un excéntrico rey clavó en la puerta de su palacio un edicto que decía: “De ahora en adelante aquí se venden billetes de $20 por un dólar”.

En cuestión de minutos, sus súbditos clamaban por esos billetes tan baratos. Así que el rey publicó un segundo edicto: “Los billetes de $20 solo podrán usarse para comprar cosas en el extranjero.” Y después el tercero: “Cualquier cosa que se compre en el extranjero con los billetes de $20 deberá ser vendida en nuestro reino por $2.”

“¡Esto hará que todos me quieran!”, pensó. “Los artículos importados serán baratos para todos.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Simpatizantes del Presidente Maduro en un evento con comida gratuita auspiciado por el gobierno de Venezuela

In a faraway land, an eccentric king nailed an edict to the door of his palace that said: “Henceforth, $20 bills will be sold here for $1.”

Within minutes, his subjects were clamoring for those cut-rate twenties. So the king posted a second edict: “Each $20 bill shall be used only to buy things abroad.” Then a third: “Whatever you buy abroad with your $20 you must sell in our kingdom for $2.”

“This will make me beloved!” he thought. “Foreign goods will be cheap for all.”

But it didn’t work out that way. Soon, the lines for $20 bills were matched by lines at every store that sold foreign goods.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protests have rocked Venezuela in recent weeks, but no one seems to agree on why huge numbers of people have suddenly taken to the streets. Some observers see the demonstrations as a verdict on food and medicine shortages, inflation and economic stagnation. Others see them as the tantrum of a retrograde former elite bent on nullifying the results of the last election. The government, for its part, is sticking to the old script: Venezuela is falling victim to a fascist conspiracy cooked up by American officials who are terrified of its revolutionary aspirations.

Yet none of these competing explanations capture what’s unique about this latest outpouring of anger.…  Seguir leyendo »

As Hugo Chávez, the icon of Latin America’s left, struggles to hang on to his job, it’s tempting to read tomorrow’s closely contested election in Venezuela as a possible signal of the region’s return to the right. That would be a mistake, because the question that’s been roiling Latin America for a dozen years isn’t “left or right?” but “which left?”

Outsiders have often interpreted Latin America’s swing to the left over the last dozen years as a movement of leaders marching in ideological lock step. But within the region, the fault lines have always been clear.

Radical revolutionary regimes in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua joined Cuba, the granddaddy of the far left, in a bloc determined to confront the capitalist world, even if that meant increasingly authoritarian government.…  Seguir leyendo »

As Venezuelans get ready to head to the polls for the most closely fought presidential election of the past 14 years, one question is at the forefront of everyone’s mind: does Hugo Chávez still have it? By «it», I mean his legendary, intense, emotional connection with the poor – a kind of attachment that has, for many, a feeling of religious fervour. Of faith.

«Chávez is the only one who has ever really cared about the poor» – you hear his supporters say it again and again, with real feeling, and now more than ever it’s the centre of his pitch to voters.…  Seguir leyendo »