On 6/19/2017 5:31 PM, jat wrote:
part of the story.
Gloating about how good your "comrades" live, JAT?
Rich Venezuelans eat sushi, guzzle cocktails amid chaos
Posted on 19 June 2017 - 05:26pm
Last updated on 20 June 2017 - 12:31am
WHILE most Venezuelans struggle to buy food and make ends meet, a small
group still manages to eat sushi and sip cocktails in exclusive discos
and country clubs.
The country may be stricken by poverty and political violence, but a
rich minority acts like they are untouched by the crisis.
Case in point: Caracas, one of the world's most violent cities, is the
first in South America to open a branch of the trendy Buddha Bar
international nightclub chain.
In a country where basics such as flour and sugar are in short supply,
Buddha Bar guests can order tuna steak, pork ribs or fish tacos – as
long as they have dollars to pay.
"You can have as good a time here in Caracas as in New York, Dubai or
Saint Petersburg," says one of its owners, Cristhian Estephan.
Eight pieces of salmon and shrimp sushi here cost 55,700 bolivars
(RM23.85), or the equivalent of more than a quarter of the country's
official monthly minimum wage.
Scenes of flames, tear gas and water cannons in the streets have
dominated foreign coverage of Venezuela during the recent months.
While the mass protests against President Nicolas Maduro show that
Venezuelans' anger at their hardship is boiling over, the well-off are
still managing to have fun.
Behind tightly guarded and fortified walls, posh bars and eateries are
full. The Buddha Bar opened in 2015, when the economic crisis was
already well underway.
One customer, Ahisquel, says she joins in the protests herself but still
comes to the bar once a week with her husband, an oil executive. Like
most customers interviewed, she declined to give her full name.
"By day we throw stones and by night we come here," she says.
"After the protests, it is good to have a moment to relax – though we'll
never relax until this government is gone."
Even rich Venezuelans are affected by the country's soaring inflation
rate. But protected by their US dollars, they are better off than most.
For ordinary Venezuelans, "it's very difficult," says Ahisquel's husband.
"In this country, if you are not paid in foreign currency, it is
impossible to live."
Many rich Venezuelans have left the country for Miami, Los Angeles or
Madrid since Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez launched his socialist
But some of them like Lorenzo Mendoza – Venezuela's richest man and the
owner of Polar, the country's largest food company – are content to stay.
Some are known as "boli-bourgeois," champagne socialists who grew rich
from Chavez's "Bolivarian revolution."
"We run when we see the boli-bourgeois. We can spot them a mile off,"
says Carlos, a 49-year-old lawyer, sitting beside the tree-lined
swimming pool near the golf course of the Caracas Country Club in the
north of the capital.
The rise of the Chavistas changed life for traditional rich families
"Everything is really expensive and only they can afford to live around
Distribution of wealth
New money talks in a country where Maduro is striving to continue
Venezuela's economy logged strong growth before prices for its crucial
oil exports started a downward spiral in mid-2014.
"Wealth in Venezuela is generated by state revenues that depend on the
oil sector," says Colette Capriles, a sociologist at Simon Bolivar
"The state redistributes that revenue. The Chavez government used it
with preference for those who needed it most," with social welfare
spending, she says.
But it also offered an opportunity for those close to power to line
"This form of socialism has produced some very powerful millionaires,"
"Most of them are government officials or people close to them – and
currently they are one of the main things holding up the government."
Show must go on
The streets of Caracas are empty after nightfall. Locals are too scared
to go out for fear of being robbed or killed.
Venezuela has one of the highest annual murder rates in the world: 70
for every 100,000 people last year, according to UN data.
But out of sight in the bars and restaurants, some are still having a
"The upper classes have not stopped going out," says Estephan.
"Even in the worst of times, people meet, get married, eat. The show
must go on." — AFP