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Venezuela suffers nationwide food shortage

Nation-wide food shortages have struck the South American country of Venezuela.

The shortages were formally declared by lawmakers from the opposition party in early February when the country was hit by national shortages of bread, meat, milk and other principal food items.

This state of emergency is not new to Venezuela, which suffered similar shortages in 2015, according to Wall Street Journal. Farm production within the country has collapsed in spite of the country’s generous amount of potential farmland. Also, the price of oil, Venezuela’s chief export, has fallen, which has hurt the country’s ability to import food, according to National Public Radio.

Stephen Ruales, international business major and native of Venezuela’s neighboring country Ecuador, explained that these shortages could be traced back to Venezuela’s negative view of other countries.

He said that the Venezuelan government has a habit of portraying other countries as enemies of their homeland. As a result of such a mindset, the government overtaxes imports, which leads to the public only having access to homegrown products. These homegrown products are often overpriced to generate tax revenue. Ruales attributed such a practice to the current socialist regime that holds office in Venezuela.

“If you don’t have enough money to sustain your ideals, then you’re not going to be a stable government,” Ruales said. “You need something providing for you.”

Randall Waldron, professor of economics and international business at the University, pointed out that Venezuela’s government is a corrupt one that exercises near-total control over certain markets. He said this is a contributing factor in the country’s current shortages.

“It’s incredibly difficult for a business initiative to function at all,” Waldron said. “You simply can’t make any progress, and now it’s hitting closer to home with the ordinary Venezuelan because the shelves are empty.”

Ruales also mentioned that Venezuela’s negative international reputation prohibits Venezuela from gaining substantial amounts of financial aid prospering.

“They can’t get much money from anywhere else, so they have to tax their own people,” Ruales said. “They’ve been taxing the farms too much.”

As a result of the current state of emergency, President Nicolás Maduro is urging his country’s citizens to grow food and raise poultry in their own urban gardens. Such a proposition could be difficult to carry out, considering 83 percent of Venezuelans live in metropolitan areas, according to NPR.

Waldron said that this kind of mindset does not make for a successful economy, regardless of the style of government.

“Their economy should not depend on them raising their own agricultural goods,” Waldron said of Venezeula. “The whole point of a prosperous, developed economy is to let people specialize in what they’re relatively good at … Every developed country relies on a small portion of its population to generate agricultural products for everybody else.”

The current crisis marks nearly 10 months of ongoing food shortages for Venezuela.