Venezuela Tries To Convince Investors That It's The Land Of Opportunity Venezuela is suffering hyperinflation, shortages of food and medicine and a mass exodus. But while the socialist government is trying to promote the country, it inadvertently highlights shortcomings.
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Venezuela Tries To Convince Investors That It's The Land Of Opportunity

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Venezuela Tries To Convince Investors That It's The Land Of Opportunity

Venezuela Tries To Convince Investors That It's The Land Of Opportunity

Venezuela Tries To Convince Investors That It's The Land Of Opportunity

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Venezuela is suffering hyperinflation, shortages of food and medicine and a mass exodus. But while the socialist government is trying to promote the country, it inadvertently highlights shortcomings.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The government of Venezuela says everything is OK. Never mind the food shortages. Never mind hyperinflation, the mass exodus of people and ever-deeper questions about unfair elections. The socialist government recently held a business fair to convince investors that Venezuela is a land of opportunity. Reporter John Otis has more.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO: (Speaking Spanish).

JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: At a Caracas sports arena, President Nicolas Maduro inaugurates the fair known as the Venezuela Power Expo.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MADURO: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: "I hope the whole world will see how amazing Venezuela really is," Maduro says.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

MADURO: The expo seems impressive. Sales people pitch everything from farm equipment to tourist resorts. To liven things up, a band plays Venezuelan folk music.

(SOUNDBITE OF LIVE MUSIC)

OTIS: Yet, even at this showcase for progress, signs of the country's breakdowns are everywhere.

CHERY JASPE: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: This is a booth for the Ministry of Urban Agriculture, which teaches people how to combat food shortages by producing their own fruit, vegetables and livestock.

JASPE: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: Chery Jaspe, who's working the booth, tells fairgoers about the government's Rabbit Plan, which encourages people to raise the furry critters for food. It even provides a recipe for rabbit meat hamburgers. Nearby is an exhibit for corn flour.

EDGAR VELASQUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: But the man in charge, Edgar Velasquez, says he had to hide the bags of corn flour that were on display to prevent hungry fairgoers from stealing them.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Speaking in Spanish).

OTIS: Military hardware makes up the biggest exhibit, which seems fitting. Many analysts claim that Maduro's growing alliance with the armed forces is the main reason why the deeply unpopular president is still in power.

At this exhibit, kids are playing in national guard armored vehicles like the kind that were used last year to put down anti-government protests in which more than a hundred people were killed.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: But the most surreal exhibit was this one promoting a new version of the bolivar, the Venezuelan currency. Come August, these new bills will replace the current bolivar bank notes which have lost so much value that people often just throw them away.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: Despite this monetary fiasco, a central bank official holds forth on the glories of the bolivar, like the fact that it once won a prize from the Czech Republic for having the best artwork and design. Such government institutions dominate the fair, partly because so many private businesses have gone bankrupt. But I do meet a few entrepreneurs.

ARMANDO ALVAREZ: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: Armando Alvarez manufactures wheelchairs. He claims to have found a silver lining in the crisis.

ALVAREZ: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: In recent years, Alvarez says, his company has gained a larger share of the domestic wheelchair market. But he admits that's only because so many of his competitors have either closed down or pulled out of Venezuela.

For NPR News, I'm John Otis in Caracas.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEO HURTADO AND DAVID PENA'S "MALVINA")

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