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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Venezuela Goes For Greenbacks

For John, BLUFIf we really want to stop illegal immigration we should elect Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as President in 2020.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Yahoo News, by Mr Andrew Rosati 18 June 2019.

Here is the lede plus seven:

(Bloomberg) -- Editors Note:  There are few places as chaotic or dangerous as Venezuela.  “Life in Caracas” is a series of short stories that seeks to capture the surreal quality of living in a land in total disarray

We used to catch only rare glimpses of them in public.  A waiter willing to risk jail time might be persuaded to accept them for the right price.  Amateur tourists would flash them at the airport.  Shady street hawkers made offers for them under their breath.

Now, U.S. greenbacks are everywhere.  They’re stacked high in cashiers’ drawers at supermarkets and bodegas and even make their way into panhandlers’ cups.  The wealthy tip parking valets with singles and pull out wads of twenties to pay for buckets of beer.  Currency traders casually set up on busy street corners in slums and shout, “Compro dolares, compro dolares”—“I buy dollars.”

With the bolivar all but worthless, devalued into irrelevance by the autocrat Nicolas Maduro, the cash printed by the gringos he rails against has become king.  It is beyond ironic that Washingtons and Benjamins—and not the domestic notes named for the South American independence hero—are keeping the consumer economy afloat.

Until recently, using foreign money was a crime the government enthusiastically threatened to prosecute.  After the ruling socialists established currency controls back in 2003, they began patrolling for transactions that ran afoul of their Kafkaesque rules about money.  Plain-clothed inspectors ran stings and raided businesses.

While very few people actually ended up behind bars, the government definitely succeeded in spooking everybody.  We kept the bills tucked away for fear of sending signals to kidnappers and cops.  We talked in code, calling them “lettuces” and “greens.”

I conducted a few transactions in dollars in those days, swapping cash on a stove in a restaurant kitchen or in an empty office backroom.  The recipients of my treacherous bills would nervously shut windows and doors as they led me away from prying eyes.

It took inflation hitting six digits and widespread hunger for the regime to finally begin dismantling the complicated mess of controls.  Now the authorities don’t blink when they see dollars bandied about.  Their government is too broke and too dysfunctional to try to dictate the terms of commerce anymore.  Their 21st Century socialism has given way to savage capitalism.

So, is it Socialism or Kleptocracy?  Or is it people with good intentions who are just flat out incompetent?  I worry that we have like people in this nation, prepared to ruin life for all in the pursuit of a good idea.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

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