Venezuela is going through a general collapse of public services, which adds to the problem of hyperinflation, the low wages, and precarious living conditions. This context has motivated frequent protests in many communities affected by the lack of water, cooking gas, electrical power, or fuel across the country. The precarious living conditions of the population seem to be reaching unbearable levels, and protest, unable to articulate social or political demands, becomes a survival mechanism rather than an instrument to demand rights.
The political and social crisis affecting the country has had several peaks of conflict in 2016 and 2017. However, as the government managed to overcome the pressure, the processes of social fragmentation deepened. The organizations that articulate trade unions, workers’ movements, community associations, students, etc., have weakened as much as the living conditions of the population. Although the unrest levels may be very high (according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict in April, an average of 20 protests took place throughout the country every day of April), the destructuring of the social fabric limits the collective articulation to spontaneous and contained episodes, generating a feeling of isolation and helplessness in the opposition majority. This has allowed the national executive to impose an agenda that turns out to be a kind of political totalitarianism with “partial liberalism” on economic matters.
As the country’s economy progressively collapsed, a network of informal and deregulated businesses emerged, tending to replace the roles of public companies devastated by corruption. Part of the capital that has been raised from state corruption and criminal networks is reinvested to capture the few sources of accumulation that remain in the country: Remittances-based consumption, mining (gold, diamond) , food imports , among others; as well as the recent economic phenomenon of the bodegones (grocery stores where imported products are offered at prohibitive prices for the bulk of the population) that emerged in the second half of 2019, along with the de facto liberalization/dollarization of the economy. Now, with the crisis inside Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) reaching its final stage, legal mechanisms have been opened for further privatization of the company, as well as the restructuring of the fuel distribution system.
Historically, some people in power took advantage of the subsidized price of gasoline to smuggle it , giving rise to a mechanism of systematic looting that, added to negligence, corruption, lack of investment, and vast debts within PDVSA, ended up by destroying national production. This has led us to an unusual situation: being an oil country, we need to import huge shipments of gasoline. As can be seen in figure 1, the Venezuelan economy has become more dependent on the international market, to the point that the import of mineral fuels and their derivatives, greatly needed to support the oil industry, went from representing 4.2% of total imports in 2001 to…