CARACAS - The ongoing shortage of basic products – including food, personal hygiene products and medicine – is having a huge effect on Venezuela.
President Nicolas Maduro and his government have made several announcements to fight the shortage and have accused the opposition of fanning the flames. Meanwhile, people continue to struggle to find the products they need and many blame the government for the situation.
America Economia spoke with Venezuelans from different backgrounds who face this reality on a daily basis, reaching beyond the poor into the country's middle class and professional ranks.
The issue has gradually been worsening over the past few years, but has reached new heights in recent weeks, with domestic production at an all-time low, high inflation, and yet another wave of devaluation that has hit the Venezuelan currency hard. Venezuelans fear it will only get worse. Here are some of their testimonies:
Emitza Arrechedera Torrealba
Occupation: IT specialist, housewife
Place of residence: Maracay, Aragua state.
“I have been astonished at these acute shortages, considering that Venezuela is a rich country that has every resource. For me, it has been terrible and inconceivable. This situation has been going on for a few years, since the Chavez government started destroying private enterprise and domestic production, but everything got worse in 2012.”
Miguel Guzman Porras.
Place of residence: Maturin, Monagas state.
“The food items most affected by the shortage are bread flour, chicken, meat, margarine, butter, sugar, milk powder, and corn oil. However, the most depressing is the shortage of toilet paper. It is common for people to send each other texts and Blackberry or Whatsapp messages saying where you can find certain products. When you get such a message, you have to run to get there before the lines form. Other people keep a lookout for the supply trucks or they have an informer inside the supermarket who lets them know when a product arrives.”
Occupation: Industrial Sciences graduate
Place of Residence: Valencia, Carabobo state.
“One of the main issues is the control on foreign currency that affects most private businesses, which are the driving force behind the economy. Without dollars, these companies cannot buy their products in the international markets. That is a crucial point, which results in the scarcity of basic products, such as: toilet paper, cosmetics, medicines, and staple food items... As a result, people use social networks such as Twitter to find out where to buy certain products.”
Occupation: Office clerk
Place of Residence: Punto Fijo, Falcon state.
“They started with the restriction of products. For example, if you bought bread flour, they only sold one or two units per person. I guess it was so that we would start getting used to it. Then, we started noticing that we couldn’t even do that, simply because the products were not on the supermarket shelves anymore. If we found out that the buhoneros (“black market vendors”) had the products we needed, we would run out to buy from them only to find we had to pay two or three times the real cost. But we did not have a choice except to buy it at any price in order to get what we needed... The situation is not getting easier. Shopping in one place is no longer enough. Instead, you have to start going to places further and further from the city to find something. This has an impact on the family budget... The shortages affect everyone.”
Roxana Alicia Carrasquel Moreno
Occupation: Business manager in a medical clinic
Place of residence: Maturin, State of Monagas.
“The black market vendors find the merchandise in other cities and also by using their contacts with the government’s distributors who supply products to the Socialist Market where they sell a limited quantity per person. It is depressing when you see people standing in huge lines as early as 4 a.m. at the Socialist Market. Sometimes, they leave with only two or three products. It is humiliating and shocking. Even in our homes, we ration food. Prices go up every 30 days.”
Saul Rondon Jorquera
Place of residence: San Antonio, Miranda state.
From Saul’s point of view, the reason for the shortage crisis is linked to the fact that “all the products are affected by imports, currency exchange control, and the shortage of dollars. Regulated prices are a problem if there is an inflation as great as the one we have here, as well as the lack of national production.” He goes on to say “I don’t know how much worse it can get! This is the worst I’ve seen in my life!”
Alejandro Mauricio Godoy Cespedes
Occupation: Civil Engineering student at the Central University of Venezuela
Place of residence: Caracas.
“The shortages of the past seven years have spread throughout the country. However, it is after the last presidential election that the situation has become worse.”