Fans of the television drama “Homeland” might have been surprised when in a recent episode one of the protagonists surfaced in Venezuela as a guest/prisoner of a sinister gang living in a crowded and dilapidated half-built Caracas high-rise. The espionage show normally focuses on Middle East terrorists and the CIA agents chasing them. But Venezuela’s strife and the sheer strangeness it produces proved hard to resist.
The depiction, with its post-apocalyptic overtones was, of course, fictional, even though thousands of squatters do live in unfinished buildings in Venezuela, and crime levels are a growing threat. But there is no escaping the fact that, lately, Venezuela under President Nicolas Maduro, the heir to the mythical late President Hugo Chavez, is experiencing days when fact seems stranger than fiction.
Earlier this month, Venezuelans woke to discover the army had “occupied” a major appliance store—almost literally declaring war on high prices—arresting managers and setting off riots of bargain hunting, some of which ended in wild looting. Maduro, who had already ordered the occupation of a toilet paper factory, warned that the campaign against the retailers was “the tip of the iceberg.”