Concerts and catwalks return in Venezuela, but for those who have cash and under blackouts

By Vivian Sequera, Mayela Armas and Tibisay Romero

CARACAS, June 13 (Reuters) – Venezuelan pop and reggaeton fans, who can pay the equivalent of a monthly minimum wage for a ticket, are packing concert halls for the first time in more than seven years to see their artists. national and international favourites.

A partial easing of economic problems in the country, which remains marked by extreme inequalities, has encouraged the return of musical events in Caracas and other cities. Since March, singers such as the Dominican Natti Natasha, the Colombian band Morat, and more recently, Il Divo, have performed in various venues in the capital.

“Due to the country’s problems, many artists decided not to come to Venezuela,” said Félix Colmenares, an event producer, who added that many of his colleagues left the country, amid a continuous exodus that has seen some six million people migrate. Venezuelans since 2015.

Events, mostly limited to around 3,500 spectators, have tended to sell out, including an urban music festival held in the open parking lot of a Caracas shopping mall in June.

The thriving concert scene is one of several recent signs of superficial improvements in Venezuela’s economy, following easing of controls in 2019 and increased dollar transactions, which have allowed the rise of glitzy restaurants and cafes and even the installation of casinos, which were legalized in 2020.

A fashion week even resumed at the end of April inside a luxurious hotel in Valencia, capital of the central state of Carabobo and one of the country’s main industrial zones, showcasing the creations of 27 local designers, from gala to casual. in an attempt to boost the textile sector, hit by the economic crisis.

Dollarization has given a respite, but it has not been enough to reverse the fall, two sources from the textile sector pointed out, adding that the industries face tax increases and limitations in access to credit.

“People and businessmen have given themselves the opportunity to bring joy, to change reality a bit,” said Fabián García, a hospitality student who traveled from Mérida, a city in western Venezuela, to the capital to attend a festival of reggaeton.

But “in Venezuela we find two contrasts (…) Caracas is a bubble,” added the 18-year-old. In Mérida, the area where he lives, he suffers from electricity, water and gasoline failures.

The country continues to face low industrial production, deteriorating electricity, water, gas and transportation services, and a health care crisis, according to analysts.

Inequality has worsened. In 2021, the income of the richest 20% was 46 times greater than that of the poorest 20%, doubling the difference registered in 2020, according to calculations by the local firm Anova Policy, which showed that some segments of the population are experiencing a recovery, and others are vulnerable.

Those attending the concerts that have been organized this year have paid for tickets from 30 to 500 dollars, amounts to which not everyone has access, because inflation and dollarization have accentuated the wage gaps among workers.

“One sees these islands of exuberance in some sectors and on the other hand some signs of precariousness (…) contrasting and in a certain sense, hateful,” said economist Leonardo Vera, who added that the flow of oil revenues is increasing, but It is still far from the boom of a decade ago.

“Venezuela is still very prostrate and we still can’t talk about a recovery,” Vera said, referring to the infrastructure of basic services.

Almost two-thirds of homes report a deterioration in the supply of electricity and water, and companies operate at 28% of their installed capacity, according to data from the Observatory of Public Services and Conindustria, an industrial union.

The public health sector is perhaps where the contrasts are most revealing. In May, Reuters visited a hospital in the south-west of the city, where patients were lying on the floor waiting. Four of its nine floors are closed due to lack of equipment and personnel, and only one of six elevators operates.

Car dealerships, which have shut down controls on local production and prompted companies like General Motors and Ford to abandon their operations, are now displaying imported SUVs. Car purchases abroad increased 30% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, according to industry estimates. Meanwhile, assembly in the country remains limited.

To remain in power, “Chavismo’s survival instinct made it twist the course of the socialist revolution and embrace a super-savage market economy,” said Omar Zambrano, economist and director of the firm Anova Policy.

Many attendees at a recent urban music concert opted for $2 beers over $60 bottles of vodka served by waiters in black ties in a VIP area.

“This is for people who can really handle it, for whom it’s not that difficult to scrape together a little more money,” said Camila Oliveros, a 19-year-old nursing student. “Not everyone can do it because a lot of people work, work, work and everything they do is just to eat.”

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Mayela Armas in Caracas and Tibisay Romero, in Valencia, Venezuela. Editing by Marion Giraldo)

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Concerts and catwalks return in Venezuela, but for those who have cash and under blackouts