Militant JournalismVenezuela

Dispatch from Venezuela: the government’s massive food distribution apparatus

Editor’s Note: this article was written on Feb. 22 as the author, Gloria La Riva, made her way to the Colombian border crossing, to observe the standoff there. 

A visit to any social project, walking the streets, seeing Venezuela with one’s own eyes, shatters the demonized images that the U.S. government and media are projecting of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Outrageous lies against the government of President Nicolas Maduro are being published or broadcast on a daily basis by the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, etc., to paint a picture of “humanitarian crisis.” Their role is to justify the U.S. aggression.

Gladys, a woman of retired age recognized me and stopped me in the street yesterday afternoon. I had been a guest on one of the most popular national TV morning shows, speaking of the anti-war efforts in the United States in defense of Venezuela.

She said emphatically, “Please tell the truth so they hear it in the media over there. Tell the truth. We are not starving. Yes, it is true, we have shortages, but the fault is of the United States that has restricted us so. There have been so many lies about us.”

She added, “Even my daughter who lives in Spain called me and said, ‘Mama how many dead people are there?’ That was so ridiculous, I had to hang up on her.”

This battering ram of false propaganda hides a more insidious truth: The U.S. government is the biggest reason for the shortages, with the strangling sanctions it has imposed. Major Venezuelan and U.S. corporations have engaged in a concerted production, an act of war, and in this war the attacks are increasing daily.

This week a medical shipment from Qatar paid for by the Maduro government, was seized by Spain on its way to Venezuela and returned to Qatar.

The seizure of Venezuela’s CITGO property in the U.S. alone will cost the country over $7 billion. The country’s bank accounts are frozen, the Bank of England refuses to release Venezuela’s gold.

Under such conditions, other governments would have collapsed long ago.

Resistance and international solidarity

The government of President Nicolas Maduro has gone into overdrive to help the population resist the economic war, by expanding the scope and reach of the historic missions begun by the revolution’s leader Hugo Chavez.

This expansion didn’t happen overnight. It has been unfolding in the last three years, although certainly at an accelerated pace in recent months.

Education, healthcare, housing, and food sustenance are the pillars of Venezuela’s development towards socializing larger sections of the economy.

Despite scenes of empty shelves of U.S. television, there is not a scarcity of food in Venezuela. Private supermarkets and pharmacies are chock full of products. The problem is that they are largely inaccessible. The problem is the sky-high prices in private markets. A chicken costs 10,000 Bolivares (Bs). while the minimum wage is 18,000 bs.

Vegetable and fruit stands abound on the sidewalks. Most are run by people with limited means. Those prices are much more affordable.

Three years ago, Maduro launched the CLAP program to provide a vital supply of food to six million families, through a system of community organization, census and distribution.

One neighbor in a major housing community, Carmen Requena, showed me the latest CLAP monthly box she received. An architect, she lives alone. Her box contained six pounds of rice, six pounds of black beans, two pounds of lentils, two liter bottles of oil, two bags of milk, 2.2 pounds of sugar, 10 pounds of corn flour, the essential ingredients of arepas, mayonnaise, catsup, two cans of tuna fish. The total cost 500 Bs. The official rate of exchange is 3,000 Bs per 1 USD.

CLAP supplies include chicken, meat, and 36 eggs per month. Instead of 10,000 Bs for a chicken in the private market, the CLAP cost for all the added animal protein is 500 Bs.

CLAP is not just a simple delivery from a truck. There is a high level of community organization, also called CLAPs, within the Communal Councils (consejo comunal). The CLAP coordinator is elected in the community, like all responsible position of the councils.

I attended an evening CLAP meeting in the Caracas parish of Antímano of three CLAPs in which 207 families take part. All the families there are covered, 65,000. The coordinators and families were working closely together to make sure the numbers were exact. And this was in the dark in a schoolyard, each group using the light of a cell phone. The lack of light didn’t dampen their spirit.

The parish census is part of a citywide survey in all of Caracas to assure the exact number of recipients. After completion the CLAPs will be delivered every 15 days instead of monthly, and it is being applied nationally.

As Diosdado Cabello, Vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV, and President of the National Constituent Assembly, said about the U.S. demand that its military rations of 70 tons of “aid” be accepted by Venezuela: “It is shameful that the U.S. says they want to bring 70 tons, when just in the Andean region alone, we deliver directly 12,000 tons of food. It is a media show.”

Assuring rice supply with expropriation, Vietnamese solidarity

Riding a bus with Venezuelans to Táchira to counter the U.S. Trojan horse operation, we pass immense fields of rice, a large agricultural complex and silos of rice storage.

Fernando Avila explains, “when the Mari company that produces rice began to suppress its own rice production in league with the opposition, the state took control of the factory by the designation of necessity. It is very high quality and now that rice is being used in the CLAP deliveries.”

Yesterday on TV with a team of Vietnamese agronomist and diplomats present, both countries announced a major aggressment to help Venezuela grow rice on a self-sustaining basis.

Russia ships medicine, other countries to help also

Maduro has made clear that Venezuela has the money to buy medicines that the country needs. But again, the purchases are being blocked by Washington’s dictates. Venezuelan government bank accounts and the seizure of the country’s oil reserves in the U.S. are a deliberate weapon to turn Venezuela into an impoverished country.

President Maduro announced on Feb 21 that a shipment from Russia had just arrived of 7.5 tons of essential medicines for cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses. It is part of Russia’s shipments of 300 tons of medicines and equipment. Despite its hostility to the Bolivarian Revolution, the European Union agreed to send medicines through the UN as well. More has recently arrived from China, Cuba and others.

Maduro explained: “Every week in a permanent way the medicines are coming. Who pays? The Venezuelan government. We are not beggars. We are paying for all our obligations. But how criminal it is that the U.S. imperialist government that is blocking our medicines. Trump is violating the human rights of the Venezuelan people when he blocks the entry of medicine.”

One woman I became friends with on the bus on our way to Táchira, Liuska said, “It is more than just our oil the U.S. wants. They are attacking us because of our effort to make a new society.”

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