And did Venezuela stop being able to import groceries after they seized El Exito? Was the country ruined?
Yes, and yes.
There is a huge scarcity of even the most basic imported products, such as milk, corn flour (a staple product in Venezuela), toilet paper, etc.
Hunger and poverty have gone down significantly since 1999. Even the anti-Chavez people accept this.
In case you can't read Spanish, the debt since 1999 until the end of 2012 has been increased by $275,300,000,000.
After googling for a while I found the 1999 debt was of $31,484,000,000.
So the debt before/after Chavez:
1999: $31,484,000,000 <--- I didn't miss a digit
And right after Chavez died, Maduro asked China for a new loan, in which the terms are a mystery. The government has a number of secret funds, and a share from oil imports go directly there. Nobody knows how much money is there, or how is it used exactly. The perceived risk in Venezuela is so high that the bond interest for any new debt would be valued above 13%, among the highest in the world.
I would also like to point that this happened during a period of historically high oil prices. In 1999 the price was around $18 per barrel. After 1999 the price soared and nowadays its around $100. In 1999 Venezuela was the 5th largest oil exporter. What has happened since then? Where did all the money go? Most experts predict the price to decrease in the following years, if so, Venezuela missed the boat.
Chavez also seized the oil companies, and stopped Venezuela's biggest resource being a cash cow for foreign companies.
Where did you get that from? Did Chavez say so?
The oil industry was nationalized in 1976. What he did in 2003 was to fire most of the employees that PDVSA after a general strike. These were highly trained specialists that are now working in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc.
I've never been there. It's probably the country I most want to visit, and one of the main reasons is because it's so hard for a foreigner to know what the country is really like. I just read the Venezuelan newspapers and talk to Venezuelans sometimes here in Europe (mostly rich Venezuelans who don't like Chavez).
Sure, you are welcome. Just watch your back, don't go out after 6pm. And when you go out, try to stay in the eastern part of the city. Also, don't exchange your currency in the airport or any official place, as the policy is to rip off tourists. Ahhh, don't forget to bring your own toilet paper too.