South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
This week, it has been a quarter of a century since Thelma & Louise sailed their battered convertible into the Grand Canyon, securing their place in Hollywood's pantheon of heroes. This week is another in the saga of the Venezuelan government's push on the gas pedal towards the approaching abyss.
But unlike Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis - and to many Venezuelans, the late Hugo Chávez - if President Nicolás Maduro and his acolytes finally jump off the cliff, they won't leave as heroes. In a prelude to a humanitarian crisis, the incidence of looting is soaring as Venezuelans become ever more desperate in their search for basic goods on barren supermarket shelves. "[It is] written in the Bible, people will kill each other for food," the voice of a woman can be heard on an amateur video of a looting.
Coca-Cola has halted production of sugary drinks due to a lack of sugar. Empresas Polar, the country's biggest food producer, which also bottles Pepsi products, may soon follow suit. More worrying, inventories of maize -the base ingredient for Venezuela's staple arepa- are running dangerously low.
But things seem poised to get worse. Venezuela's government and state oil company PDVSA have decided to prioritise bondholders over its citizens and plans to continue to squeeze imports. Meanwhile, they are scraping every barrel, swapping gold and trying to restructure debts.
The recent oil price rebound, and a deal with its main financier, China, to extend oil-for-loans deadlines may give this ravaged economy a little bit of oxygen. However, somebody made it clear this week that "China is now diversifying away from the seething cauldron of risk that Caracas has become."
Despite being geographically closer to the Grand Canyon, Mexico City is far from Caracas' Thelma & Louise car sliding into the abyss. Yet endemic corruption, car fumes and a lack of running water are putting officials to test - while testing the nerves of my fellow correspondent there.
That applies to Venezuela too, where the crash is nigh but has not yet occurred. “The question is," someone said, "is it going to be a Thelma & Louise ending, where they drive off the cliff knowingly and deliberately, or will they just drive off the cliff? Their inability to change course, despite the obvious danger, is stunning."
Quote of the week
“We have to change the government to stop this bleeding”- Brazil's former interim planning minister Romero Jucá caught on tape telling Sérgio Machado, former president of a subsidiary of the national oil company, Petrobras, that a change of government was needed to contain a sweeping corruption probe.