Venezuela: Shortages of basics alter shopping methods


Against the backdrop of the latest diplomatic squabble between the United States and Venezuela which has so far seen tit-for-tat expulsions – the score is tied at three turfings each – the New York Times has a piece on how the country is coping with its new leader. The title, To Venezuelans, Heir of Chávez Is a Poor Copy, is kind in that it seems to imply all was hunky-dory when Hugo Chavez was running the show.

Prices are soaring, the country is plagued by electrical blackouts, some neighborhoods go days without water, and protests tangle the already stifling traffic.

Under Chavez’ hand-picked successor Nicolás Maduro things have gone from really bad to pretty much horrendous. When you take into consideration Venezuela’s vast oil reserves it boggles the mind why common everyday things like grocery shopping have taken on a wartime characteristic.

The Times article points out that “Prices are soaring, the country is plagued by electrical blackouts, some neighborhoods go days without water, and protests tangle the already stifling traffic. To top it all off, the cheap beer that helps people let off steam at many a weekend party has suddenly become scarce, too.”

“They’re supposed to have milk here” or “Chickens here but there are fights over how many you can buy” and even “We’re hoping to get some corn flour”

Members of my extended family living in Caracas and Cagua can attest to these day-to-day inconveniences. In fact the concept of grocery shopping has changed from simply going to one store, cruising the aisles and filling your basket with goods to driving around looking for line-ups outside stores and asking those waiting what they are hoping to buy. Shouting “They’re supposed to have milk here” or “Chickens here but there are fights over how many you can buy” and even “We’re hoping to get some corn flour” – an essential ingredient for Venezuelans – those in the queues keep shoppers up to date about what’s allegedly available inside.

So while cocktail-sipping diplomats are sent packing back to their homes, the people of Venezuela try to cope with a serious dearth of essentials. Actually these shortages would be serious in a very poor country; in a rich modern nation such as Venezuela they are both absurd and immoral.

MeDCMontreal is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that. a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and Freans and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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