A Father And Son Debate Venezuela's Economic Crisis A conversation between a father and son about the situation in Venezuela — where inflation is rife and food riots common — reveals the increasing fault lines among society in the socialist country.
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A Father And Son Debate Venezuela's Economic Crisis

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A Father And Son Debate Venezuela's Economic Crisis

A Father And Son Debate Venezuela's Economic Crisis

A Father And Son Debate Venezuela's Economic Crisis

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A conversation between a father and son about the situation in Venezuela — where inflation is rife and food riots common — reveals the increasing fault lines among society in the socialist country.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We've been hearing startling stories of Venezuelans fighting over scarce food and suffering because they can't get medicine. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro has been reporting on that. Here, Lulu listens in on a conversation between a father and a son, one that illustrates the growing political divide in today's Venezuela.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: In a small, shadowed house in the steamy coastal city of Maracaibo, a fan is blowing at what feels like industrial strength. I'm sitting among stained glass lamps and Victorian-style settees with a father and a son who are having an argument. Both say the situation in Venezuela is terrible, but that's about the only thing they're agreeing on.

MIGUEL: (Speaking Spanish).

MARCELO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The father, Miguel, is a retired school teacher in his 70s, and he lives here with his wife, also retired.

MARCELO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Their son, Marcelo, is in his early 30s. We're not using the family name at their request because of concerns about retribution in this polarized country.

MIGUEL: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The father is fiercely loyal to Venezuela's socialist government. He's the head of his local party committee, and he's been put in charge of distributing government-issued food rations. He tells me the local committees for supply and production, known by their Spanish acronym CLAP, is a great idea that will stop black marketeers from taking advantage of the shortages here.

MIGUEL: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He tells me there is food. He says the problem is inflation.

MIGUEL: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And he blames the rampant inflation and food problems on the United States. The United States, he says, wants to take us over and take our oil. He rages against President Obama. What's the best way to take over a country, he asks. Kill people with hunger, he says. His opinions mirror those of the government of President Nicolas Maduro who regularly appears in state-run television blaming everyone from the U.S. to business elites to smugglers from Colombia for the economic chaos in the country.

Now, Marcelo, the son, strongly disagrees with his dad.

MARCELO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Daddy says Maduro says it's the black marketeers who are killing the country, and it isn't. It's the price of oil that's collapsed, Marcello says.

MARCELO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Marcelo the son tells his dad, look, the government says the border is closed, but we can see trucks coming in from Colombia filled with food. And they're being escorted by the military. How do they justify those lies, he asks his dad.

MARCELO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Socialism, he says, is a fiction here. The poor can't eat, and those who have money can.

MARCELO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Marcelo then tells his dad that the government food distribution system that he's a part of is politicizing access to basic necessities. Marcelo then shows me the form that everyone in the neighborhood has to fill out in order to get the basket of goods from the so-called CLAPs. There's a large section that asks about participation in the socialist organizations in the community. One question asks who in your opinion is to blame for the electricity cuts? Marcelo says your access to food depends on your answer.

MIGUEL: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The father denies it, and he tells his son "you don't remember what came before socialism. I remember the poverty and the collapse of the economy. I was a teacher and there was no money to pay us for months," he says.

MARCELO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Marcelo says, Dad, how do you think this government is going to end up, in triumph or destroyed? His father says, unequivocally, the government will prevail. Marcelo, the son, tells me he's going to leave Venezuela. He's got a job lined up in Chile. Already his two other siblings live abroad. The younger generation, he says, isn't going to wait around for things to get better.

MARCELO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: At the end of the discussion, there is laughter and hugs, but neither side has given way. Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR News.

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