New York – Venezuelans are staggering under the weight of a critical shortage of basic goods, said opposition leader Fernando Alban, who is a councilman in Caracas, the country's capital.
The shortages are so acute, Alban told Fox News Latino during a visit to New York, that they have surpassed long-standing problems such as high crime and inflation as the driving daily concerns.
Alban attributed the problem to mismanagement by President Nicolas Maduro.
“President Nicolas Maduro has failed to solve the structural problems,” Alban said.
The mismanagement, Alban said, runs the gamut from failure to address effectively the scarcity of basic goods to lax prosecution of criminals.
Alban said that the cost of the basic groceries for a Venezuelan family is equivalent to 7 times the minimum wage there, “unattainable for more than 60 percent of the population,” he said.
“The social deterioration of our country has been worsening too,” Alban said. “As the basic food basket has increased, so has impunity.”
In the summer, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council set December 6 for legislative elections.
Slightly more than 160 members of the National Assembly are up for election, which for some 15 years have been held to question because of changes in election laws that viewed as favoring the administrations of Maduro and the late President Hugo Chavez.
This time pro-Chavez officials are facing the rare risk of losing, according to Brookings Institution's analysts. Much of it is due to growing discontent among Venezuelans over the food, economic and social crisis in their country, they said.
The think tank reports that the leading Venezuelan polling organization, Datanálisis, found that “84 percent of the population believes that the country is on the wrong path and only 13 percent view Venezuela’s situation positively.”
Asked what he thinks the elections outcome will be, Alban, whose Twitter accounts includes a daily countdown to the Dec. 6 vote, responded that Venezuela must stop isolating itself politically.
“We in Venezuela have to maintain relations with the whole planet Earth, with all countries with which we coexist,” Alban said. “We have to keep not only extraordinary social relations but trade relations with the United States, with Colombia, with Brazil and Ecuador, with Mexico. We cannot isolate ourselves from the world. The world today is global and we must get along with each other and work for everybody’s benefit.”
“One of the things that is happening in Venezuela is that we stop producing and we stop producing to buy from China,” he said. “It turns out that we can produce all that variety of products in Venezuela. It is better that the dollars stay in Venezuela instead of using them overseas to buy goods and services.”
Alban said he is hopeful that fellow opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez – who was sentenced to nearly 14 years linked to charges of inciting violence that led to fatalities during anti-government protests – would benefit from a pardon if enough new candidates are voted in on Dec. 6.
Alban and other supporters of Lopez say he received unfair treatment by the government, and consider him a political prisoner.
“There are over 100 political prisoners in Venezuela, including Leopoldo Lopez,” Alban said. “When we arrive in the National Assembly, we will pass a bill to release all political prisoners, an amnesty, so that all those exiles outside our borders can return to Venezuela, all the people that for one reason or another had to leave Venezuela, and we will open the country's doors for everyone to work.”
“Our challenges in the National Assembly is to unite all Venezuelans, reunite so all together we can push the country forward and change our destiny.”