Fine jewelry and watches are items of luxury, and in any given year, a whopping 38 million Americans will spend money so they can flaunt their expensive baubles. Too bad it looks like the president of Venezuela, Nicholas Maduro, likes to show off his gems even though his country is starving.
A popular blog, Relojes de Chavismo, has gone viral in the wake of Venezuela’s food shortage. The blog shows the president and other top government officials sporting expensive, Swiss-made watches. According to the site’s administrator, each costs over $500,000.
Keeping the current exchange rate in mind, the average minimum-wage Venezuelan earner would have to work for 120 years to afford just one of the watches.
Meanwhile, Venezuela is currently experiencing the most severe financial crisis in its history. Due to the lack of oil production, which is the country’s largest export, the Venezuelan economy is shrinking every day at an alarming rate.
The International Monetary Fund even predicts that the economy will experience a 10% decrease within the upcoming fiscal year.
Simply put, the Venezuelans are starving. For the past few months they have watched helplessly as the food stocks on their supermarket shelves dwindle to crumbs, and they have been stuck rationing food with what little they have.
A couple weeks ago Venezuela allowed a temporary opening of the Columbia border. Venezuelans of all financial classes, age, and backgrounds could be seen carrying suitcases packed like cattle on bridges leading to supermarkets in Columbia. Hungry travelers could be seen bursting into tears at the sight of a fully stocked grocery shelf.
But Maduro closed the border after just two days.
It has even gotten so desperate that starving individuals are raiding Venezuela zoos and slaughtering the emaciated animals for their meat. Just last week, a group broke into the Caricuao Zoo in Caracas, Venezuela, and killed a rare black stallion on the spot. Rare pigs from Vietnam, sheep, and birds are all being sacrificed out of desperation.
And if they aren’t murdered for their meat, more and more die from starvation almost every day.
Some countries are stepping in to help. Latin American countries Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Costa Rica all recently approved a three-year-loan of $482 million for Venezuela’s central bank. But, this amount only represents about five percent of Venezuela’s bank reserves.
Jamaica is even choosing to pay back its oil debts to Venezuela with food and medicine. Under a trade agreement, Jamaica will be sending $4 million USD worth of food, medical supplies, and fertilizer to the country.
Not many know what is next for Venezuela, as the country’s downward spiral is only getting worse with each day. But what we do know is that no matter the crisis, President Maduro will have a watch to match.