If Venezuelans wanted a new national anthem, they might consider blues singer John Lee Hooker’s great tune: BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Certainly all the metaphors being used in news coverage of Venezuela these days refer to explosions.
“’We are like a bomb going tick-tock, tick-tock,’ said Zenovia Villegas, a 54-year-old housewife,” quoted in its lead by The Guardian, while Woodrow Wilson Center scholar Michael McCarthy led his Washington Post analysis with, “Venezuela is a powder keg.”
What made Senora Villegas ready to blow up was the fact that she’d been waiting on line at a supermarket since 430AM…and at 3PM was being told it wouldn’t open that day. Shortages of food and medicine are an everyday catastrophe for Venezuelan citizens, rich and poor, and for the poor there are frequent power outages and days without water, and for everyone there is the imminent threat of violence, from armed criminals or armored police and security units.
And the Big Picture is every bit as bleak as the microcosmic experiences of Venezolanos. As another Guardian report had it: Venezuela “is grappling with the world’s deepest recession, the world’s highest inflation (estimated at around 500%), and the world’s second highest murder rate. It has no sovereign wealth fund and is facing the serious risk of default by November.”
The latest development has been President Nicolas Maduro’s declaration of a state of emergency giving himself almost absolute power, which he is talking about sharing with the military while dispensing with the opposition-led National Assembly.
This podcast was originally released on May 31, 2016. Get the full reading room here.