Venezuela

In Venezuela, food has become so scarce it's now being sold on the black market. One person tells the Associated Press, "it's a better business than drugs."

And the food traffickers are the very people sworn to protect Venezuela: the nation's military.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gave the military complete control of the food supply last summer, after people began protesting in the streets over food rationing. Shortages had become so bad that people were even ransacking grocers — though many were largely empty.

EFE via Miami Herald

Venezuela’s socialist government is known for its revolving door of ministers. So it wasn’t unusual Wednesday night when President Nicolás Maduro changed his vice president. But this shift is cause for concern – especially in South Florida.

AP

Cuba’s communist leadership remains reluctant to open the island to more free market reforms and foreign investment. But Cuba’s latest economic data for 2016 might make those hardliners reconsider.

Just a few months ago, Cuba’s economy was forecast to grow 1 percent this year. It wasn’t much; but at least it was growth. This week, President Raúl Castro has admitted even that was an illusion: Cuba’s GDP, he said, will actually shrink 1 percent in 2016 - the first economic contraction in more than 20 years.

Facing protests and looting over Venezuela's plan to pull its largest banknote from circulation amid soaring inflation, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has delayed the move until January. The move comes one week after the surprise announcement of a plan to withdraw the 100-bolivar notes brought new chaos and uncertainty over Venezuela's economy.

Fernando Llano / AP via Miami Herald

It’s official: Venezuela has entered hyperinflation. It is only the seventh country in the history of Latin America to have that dubious distinction. And no one’s seeing any light at the end of this tunnel.

Technically, hyperinflation occurs when month-on-month inflation tops 50 percent for 30 days straight. Oil-rich Venezuela got to that point earlier this month. But it’s already had the world’s highest inflation rate for years. Its 2016 annual inflation may rise above 500 percent.

Dolls, bicycles and playsets are among the nearly 4 million toys that have been seized by Venezuela's government. The toys will now be sold at sharp discounts, after a regulator said a large toy distributor had hoarded the toys to push prices higher.

"Boys and girls of the country will have a happy Christmas," said William Contreras, Venezuela's national superintendent for the defense of socioeconomic rights. He added, "We will guarantee a child" gets a present.

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Carlos Garcia Rawlin/Reuters

Venezuela's economy is, to put it mildly, struggling. OK, it's a mess.

The socialist government led by President Nicolás Maduro has had to contend with the collapse of oil prices, corruption and high inflation. For ordinary Venezuelans, that means their currency, the bolivar, has become mostly worthless — mostly, but not entirely. And right now, any value the bolivar does have depends largely on one guy who works at a Home Depot in Hoover, Alabama.

C
Luis Gallo

The first thing you notice is the restaurants.

Gustavo Cruz, a Venezuelan who runs a restaurant with his father in the Colombian capital Bogotá, says there’s a boom of Venezuelan areperas in the city.

Areperas are the folks who make and sell arepas, corn flatbreads popular in both Colombia and Venezuela, but prepared differently in each country.

And now Bogotá is awash in Venezuelan areperas — a testament to the recent influx of Venezuelan migrants and their visibility in the city’s public life.

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Rayma Suprani, Venezuela/USA

Francisco Marquez wants the international community to understand something about the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro: "You are dealing with a government that currently engages in having political prisoners and systematic torture within their prison system."

Two nephews of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores were convicted on charges of conspiring to ship more than 1,700 pounds of cocaine to the United States.

Huge crowds of demonstrators rallied in the streets of Venezuela's capital and in cities across the country, after authorities halted a campaign to hold a recall election intended to oust the country's deeply unpopular president, Nicolas Maduro.

Pope Francis met with the president of Venezuela on Monday for a private conversation about that country's acute political and economic crisis, as the Vatican announced it would be mediating a meeting between Venezuela's government and the opposition.

A statement from the Holy See, as translated by Catholic News Agency, said the pope encouraged President Nicolas Maduro "to undertake with courage the path of sincere and constructive dialogue" and "to alleviate the suffering of the people — first of all, those who are poor."

Ariana Cubillos / AP

COMMENTARY

Last December – when Venezuela’s opposition demolished the ruling socialists in parliamentary elections – a lot of folks got ready for an Andean Spring.

Fernando Llano AP

  This week, three batches of mosquitoes found in traps in Miami Beach tested positive for Zika. In another important development, the Florida Department of Health admitted  it may take longer for pregnant women to get their Zika test results back. WLRN’s health reporter Sammy Mack fills us in on the latest on the Zika epidemic in South Florida. 

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