Even in his worst nightmares, Armando Rojas, a longtime business owner in the beach town of Puerto Cabello, never expected to see such scenes of economic struggle in Venezuela.
Against the backdrop of both political and economic turmoil that has worsened in recent months, the former playing out mostly in Caracas, Rojas has seen how hard times are affecting people in the once-bustling seaport, about 200 kilometres west of the capital.
“I never imagined it could get ever get to this point,” says the businessman, now in his early 60s and with 15 years of success in his line of work. “It’s a disaster what they’ve done to our country,” referring to backers of a president who critics say is hurting business with his policies.
His words are echoed by others who warn that the once-prosperous country is teetering on the edge of an economic freefall and worsening social upheaval. Those voices are primarily political opponents of President Nicolas Maduro and his new legislative assembly, which opposition politicians say could dismantle democracy itself in Venezuela.
Those voices are primarily political opponents of President Nicolas Maduro and his new legislative assembly, which opposition politicians say could dismantle democracy itself in Venezuela.
Rojas’s business, which he asked to keep anonymous because he fears government reprisal, thrived in Puerto Cabello not too long ago. Although it was never a tourist hotbed the likes of Venezuela’s famed Margarita Island, Rojas would still see visitors from across the world. In fact, their business accounted for 70 per cent of his company’s income.
But now, those free-spending tourists are all gone and his business relies entirely on cash-starved locals. Despite lowering prices to keep pace with falling income levels in the country, his company operates at just 10 per cent of what it once did. It’s so bad that he says he’s only stayed open for the sake of the the staff he employs, but that can only go on for so much longer.
Business still runs, only to help feed families
“We’re not making any money anymore,” says Rojas, “and the only reason this still runs is so that my employees can still take home a bit of money to feed their…