With the recent post Letter Re: Venezuela eating worse by J.D., I thought I would chime in, as I have been researching the situation in Venezuela recently. While I am not going to attempt to draw a conclusion for the situation in Venezuela, I would like to present everyone with some of the information I have found interesting with how the narratives have changed over the years and attempt to answer one of J.D.’s questions.
In March of 2005, an article was written discussing that Venezuela’s environment was under stress.
Former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, began projecting the narrative that Venezuela was going to lead the way to save the environment by investing in energy conservation efforts.
Electricity shortages began with power cuts lasting up to six hours at a time. Venezuela hosts the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam, which produces 60% of Venezuela’s power, with 74% of their power being generated by hydroelectric technology. The narrative during 2009 was comprised of two causes for energy shortages– low water levels due to drought and under-investment of infrastructure by the government.
More campaigns of energy conservation with the narrative stating the cause of the shortages was a result of “rapidly growing demand for electricity that has resulted from economic growth and poverty reduction.” In short, this narrative states that because Venezuela is experiencing prosperity at such a rapid rate, the government cannot keep up with infrastructure investment.
Venezuela experiences its second major power outage. The narrative from the successor of Chavez and the man who is the current president, Nicolas Maduro, stated the blackout was caused by political sabotage of his political opposition.
The narrative shifted slightly and resulted with Maduro expelling three U.S. diplomats by publicly stating, “They were involved in a widespread power outage earlier in the month. ‘Get out of Venezuela,’” he says, listing several names. “‘Yankee go home. Enough abuses already.’”
Also in 2013, the attorney general of Venezuela called on people to “remain calm, not to fall for provocations, and not to be afraid of the ‘alleged’ food shortage”, during which “hoarders” were to be arrested and imprisoned.
As events unfolded with time, there was no “alleged” food shortage but rather an actual food shortage.
These two articles cover the same story. However, the narratives are very different. If you have not picked up on the concept by now, the narratives that surround Venezuela have changed very rapidly. While these two articles address Obama’s sanction on Venezuela, they serve as a good example of how narratives shape understanding.
For those of you who are interested in individual accounts of what life has been like for people in Venezuela, consider reading these first-hand accounts.
Together, all of these stories attempt to detail a larger picture. Notice how the narrative changed over a ten year period? The narrative change could be a result of a number of reasons. It could be conspiracy and/or a government attempt to control a long-term issue by shaping ideology with short-term narratives. Or, perhaps, the narratives are a natural response to shortsightedness on the government’s behalf? Regardless, the end result is what many of us are interested in. But, it is important to understand that there is rarely a single cause that creates situations like the one in Venezuela. More likely than not, such a situation is caused by many issues. It could prove useful to explore these narratives with an attempt to understand if any relationship or correlation exists to other parts of the world. The world is full of examples within the past decade, from Syria, Ukraine, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and many more. Of course, every example I just mentioned are going to be different for different reasons. There also may be many similarities. One similarity that seems to be clear is that governments will say anything in an attempt to maintain order, which allows them to retain their power in an orderly fashion.
To address J.D.’s question that served as inspiration for my reply, let us critically reflect on the question. “There’s lots of foods there that can be reproduced. Seeds in the veggies can be planted, beans can be planted, coax seeds from the onions and carrots, plant a potato, etc. Are they doing that?”
Most of the stories that I have read on Venezuela are pretty much detailing life of people from urban centers. This suggests that many of these urban dwellers may not have the knowledge and skill to grow food. They most likely may not have access to any safe land that allows them to grow food. Typically, water is required to grow food, and it is clear that Venezuela is experiencing a water shortage, for whatever reason. Also, from the first story linked in this post, it details that many of the waterways in Venezuela are polluted. This suggests that there is a probability that if a person had access to water, the water is not clean water. Such an example details that the crops could then become contaminated, which could lead to stunted growth of the crop, illness, and potential death later in life for both the crop and the person consuming the crop. What is more, planting food today does not really address hunger until it is time to harvest, which is usually months away. Agriculture on a large and even a small scale requires organization and foresight, and let us not forget to include the criminal element and the food riots that have been reported just this month alone. These people are hungry, and they will more than likely be ready to kick your face in for that potato that is not even fully ripe yet. Add in the inflation rate that Venezuela is experiencing and any surplus of food that could be harvested will most likely be worth more tomorrow than it is today. This scenario ultimately suggests that their system of organizing is pretty much over. This explains why it is difficult to grow crops. What is more, if you are lucky enough to overcome all these obstacles and create a surplus that you decide to keep, you could be classified as a hoarder, arrested, and placed in jail as one of the articles above states.
A more recent article accounts that urban dwellers are hunting dogs, cats, and pigeons as the food shortages continue.
From my perspective, what is taking place in Venezuela is nothing short of a real-time societal collapse. In this example, shortages and unrest have been taking place for many years and the government is still acting as a source of power through violence. But, again, the narratives and the early issues that have exacerbated the Venezuela unrest have been taking place for over a decade. What is more, I am consistently reminded, when I read these stories and others that are similar, how important applying our preparedness skills actually are. Just simply buying a product to store is not enough. As J.D. stated, “The time may come when we too would need to be very resourceful to increase our food supply.” Depending on our understanding, that time could very well be right now. As it is important to fully acquire the skills we value before they are needed.
I have simplified many talking points in this post. My goal is only to spur critical thought and discussion using the Venezuela example.