By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- At least a dozen protests broke out Wednesday in the capital city of Caracas, Venezuela, while the government of embattled head of state Nicolas Maduro announced a plan to import food from Haiti, a country that is still receiving aid from Venezuela.
After meeting with his Haitian counterpart Antonio Rodrigue, Maduro’s Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, said Haiti was going to help assuage the acute food shortages in Venezuela, which some are already calling a humanitarian crisis. “The results will soon be seen on the table of Venezuelans and on the CLAP box”, Arreaza told all-news radio station Union Radio.
Venezuelans are devoting 90% of all their income to buy food, the opposition-held National Assembly legislative reported on Tuesday, as hyperinflation is expected to clock in at 46,000% this year. As for the polemical CLAP subsidized box of food, it has been denounced by the European Union as an “extortion” strategy from the Maduro administration, as it is mostly aimed at militants in the PSUV ruling party while new recipients are pressured into joining the PSUV.
Arreaza and Rodrigue met on Wednesday to reactivate a mechanism to promote “agricultural projects” in Haiti with money from Venezuela, a country that imports about 90% of all the food it eats.
Haiti receives heavily subsidized gasoline, crude and other fuels from Venezuela through the dozen country-plus “Petrocaribe” energy cooperation scheme Venezuela has been promoting in the region since the days of Hugo Chavez, a plan that has also come under fire, with the local opposition to Maduro saying it is aimed at buying enough votes to keep the Organization of American States from intervening in Venezuela. Petrocaribe will also be involved in the food-from-Haiti scheme, Arreaza said. When it was configurated, almost 20 years ago, Petrocaribe allowed member countries receiving Venezuelan fuels to pay a portion of their gasoline bill with food or other agricultural exports.
‘We are reactivating our binational committee to be able to finance projects of development in the Republic of Haiti”, Arreaza added after the meeting with Rodrigue, saying also that “many of the projects” to be financed are in the area of agriculture. “It is about free trade, responsible commerce, recognizing the realities of our economies, through a mechanism of solidarity, a mechanism that has had a great impact in the Caribbean such as Petrocaribe”.
As Arreaza and Rodrigue were discussing the import of foods, striking nurses were offered CLAP boxes in exchange of a salary hike. The strike continues, now into its second week and with other guilds such as university professors, employees and some doctors joining, as well as citizens demanding regular water service, an item that has become a “cause celebre” of late.