Only 10,268 cars have been assembled in Venezuela since the start of the year, according to the Camara Automotriz Venezolana [Venezuelan Chamber of Automobiles], an 82% reduction from the same time last year. At this time last year, 58,073 cars had been assembled in the country.
In September alone, Venezuelan factories assembled 1,778 cars compared to the 7,106 assembled during the same month last year. The depressing figures for September follow a year-long trend of decreased industrial activity, with two factories – Mack and Chrysler – assembling 0 cars for the fifth straight month.
A lack of U.S. dollars for importing raw materials is being blamed as the primary cause for the dramatic decrease in production. The government, which regulates currency exchange in the country, has been finding it difficult to meet the demand for U.S. dollars needed to keep Venezuelan industry moving and supermarket shelves stocked, leading to an unprecedented economic crisis that affects virtually every aspect of Venezuelan life.
Concern Continues Over Serra Accusations
Venezuelan politicians continued to express concern today over the accusations made by Maduro regarding the culprits behind Robert Serra’s murder. Maduro has explicitly stated on a number of occassions that Serra and his partner were murdered by the Venezuelan opposition and/or its supporters.
National Assembly deputy Omar Barboza said that the government was being “irresponsible” by making the ungrounded accusations:
It’s irresponsible to make suggestions without carrying out an investigation first in relation to the murder of Robert Serra… we think that the sensible and responsible thing to do is to wait for the investigation to finish and then punish the true culprits.
A second deputy, Simon Calzadilla, agreed, saying:
It’s unbelievable that while [Serra’s] body was still in the morgue, the government was already irresponsibly saying that the people from the opposition were responsible.
Broad Daylight Shooting Leaves Two Dead
A gun battle on a stretch of highway south of Valencia left a hostage taker and a police officer dead today.
Some time during the day, two people were taken hostage by a group of kidnappers. When CICPC officers responded, a shootout ensued, which left officer Luis Guevara severely injured and one of the kidnappers dead. Officer Guevara was captured by the kidnappers and subsequently died, while a group of suspects fled the scene.
“Hundreds” of National Guard and CICPC officers then swarmed the area, at which time the two bodies were recovered and sent to the morgue inside the Ciudad Hospitalaria Dr. Enrique Tejera. Another officer was injured, and two suspects were arrested.
Finally, a video showing a daily reality for millions of Venezuelans: lining up for hours hoping to find basic food necessities:
Narrator: We went into the heart of Petare [a slum in Caracas] and we visited the state-owned supermarket, Mercal. There, we found this line up, and with neighbours frustrated by a system which, according to them, is failing.
Man with Glasses: Yes, there is. You can find chicken, but… like this, like you can see here… Look, that system is in decay. Not just here, it’s a general thing… the situation is critical. It’s hard.
Narrator: In Venezuela, the elderly do not have nutritional security. Mrs. Maria Hill, a resident of Petare, has to wait in long lines to buy food, and in most cases, she doesn’t have the money to do so.
Narrator [to Mrs. Hill]: How long have you been in line?
Mrs. Hill: Well, I’ve been here for an hour and a half now.
Narrator: How old are you, ma’am?
Mrs. Hill: 75.
Narrator: And are you able to find every product?
Mrs. Hill: Not all. Not all. [Inaudible] they just said that there was no more milk, only chicken and sugar… sometimes we can’t buy the more expensive products. We don’t buy them because we don’t have [the money] to buy them with.
Narrator: Housewives suffer the most. They practically go around the whole city looking for food.
Woman with Sunglasses: We’re miracle workers. We don’t have everything we’d like to have in our homes. And look at the lines we have to put up with.
Narrator: Scarcity has already come to the Venezuelan capital. It’s critical. The rest of the states in the country have been suffering from extreme scarcity for at least two years. The neediest people are suffering not only because of the scarcity, but the money they have isn’t enough to buy what they find. It’s expected that 2014 the price for a basic food basket will rise above Bs. 13,000, equal to $130 in the black market. Reporting from Caracas, Venezuela, Oliver Fernandes.