With so much political turmoil and violence taking over the country recently, Venezuelans have undergone more tension and stress than most people can even imagine. As details about the Venezuelan army — and the perks that soldiers receive — start seeping into mainstream news stations, it’s clear that the disaster faced by average Venezuelan civilians has been greatly underestimated.
As Bloomberg Businessweek reports, there are two vastly different economies occurring in Venezuela: one for Venezuelan soldiers, in which food and material items are readily available, and another for regular civilians, in which goods and food are rationed and often out of stock in local stores, and in which inflation makes essential items nearly impossible to buy when they are in stock. While civilians spend hours waiting in line for basic food items (that may or may not be sold out once they reach the store), soldiers are eating subsidized meats, easily obtaining cheap loans, and driving brand new cars down the streets.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, these perks are intended to secure support and loyalty for the Venezuelan military (and, in turn, the new government). It’s been 17 months since President Nicolas Maduro has come to power in the country, and from the very start, favor has been given to active and retired soldiers at the expense of Venezuela’s poorer population.
It’s easy to see how greater access to food and other essential items could be a life-altering perk for a civilian-turned-soldier, and it’s even easy to understand how having access to items that aren’t necessarily essential, such as new cars, is certain to foster an “Us vs. Them” mentality in the already-divided country. But rather than focusing on the exact reasons why certain perks are more harmful than others, many people have begun asking a question that has received little attention thus far: how are luxury commodities, like new cars, appearing in the country at all?
The answer: Venezuelan stores may be unable to keep their shelves stocked, but Defense Minister Diego Molero has been hard at work, bringing hundreds of new Chinese cars into the country for government and military purposes. Internet communication and secure digital transactions have made large items, like cars, easy to purchase, and considering that the automotive industry sells about 15 million cars via internet sales each year, it really isn’t surprising that the Venezuelan government was able to import hundreds of cars from China — all it needed was enough money to do so.
But, as Bloomberg Businessweek notes, large foreign imports don’t indicate a strengthening economy in Venezuela. As inflation keeps rising and food availability keeps decreasing, Venezuelan civilians are less able to fund the government’s extravagant military expenses. And unless the Venezuelan government makes some big changes with its military incentives, it’s likely that the economy will keep falling.