NPR : News

Filed Under:

Venezuelans Stock Up On Toilet Paper Amid Shortage

Venezuelans may be used to a dearth of medicine, milk and sugar, but there's a new shortage that's, shall we say, a bit more problematic: toilet paper.

The government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro announced this week that it would import 50 million rolls of toilet paper to meet the growing demand.

"We will saturate the market so the people will be calm," Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming told the official AVN news agency.

But it appears that the people aren't very calm: The Associated Press reported Thursday that Venezuelans scrambled to stock up on the precious commodity.

"Even at my age, I've never seen this," 70-year-old Maria Rojas told the AP.

Another woman, Maria Perez, who walked out of a supermarket in downtown Caracas with several rolls, told the agency: "Here there's a shortage of everything — butter, sugar, flour" — but "there always used to be toilet paper."

But Fleming, the commerce minister, blamed the shortage on excessive demand caused by "a media campaign."

The shortages in Venezuela come despite its vast oil wealth; OPEC estimates the country has the largest oil reserves in the world. The late President Hugo Chavez used the country's oil revenue to act on his socialist vision, which benefited the country's poorest people. But some of his policies have hurt the economy.

Here's more from the AP:

"Economists say Venezuela's shortages of some consumer products stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government's controls on foreign currency. Many factories operate at half capacity because the currency controls make it hard for them to pay for imported parts and materials. Business leaders say some companies verge on bankruptcy because they cannot extend lines of credit with foreign suppliers."

As NPR's Carrie Kahn reported, along with the food shortages, Venezuela also faces high inflation and a recent 30 percent devaluation of the national currency.

NPR's Tom Gjelten reported last month on the challenges facing Maduro, who won the close April 14 election:

"During his presidency, Chavez diverted much of that potential [oil] wealth to Venezuelan consumers in the form of cheap gasoline (18 cents per gallon or less). He propped up the Castro regime in Cuba, and he offered Venezuelan oil on highly preferential terms to 18 Caribbean and Latin American countries through an energy alliance he called PetroCaribe."

But with declining oil revenues and growing economic problems at home, Maduro may not have the luxury enjoyed by his late mentor and predecessor.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Jhumpa Lahiri Finds Freedom In Italian Memoir: 'No One Expected Me To Do It'

The Interpreter of Maladies author is a successful, Pulitzer Prize-winning English-language writer. But she found writing in Italian gave her true freedom; "Language is a very messy thing," she says.
NPR

Gulf Of Mexico Open For Fish-Farming Business

For the first time, companies can apply to set up fish farms in U.S. federal waters. The government says the move will help reduce American dependence on foreign seafood and improve security.
WAMU 88.5

What's Behind Trends In U.S. Violent Crime Rates

FBI data suggest there was a slight uptick in violent crime in the first half of last year, but overall violent crime rates in the U.S. have dropped dramatically over the last twenty years. What led to the long-term decline, and why do some say it’s likely to continue?

WAMU 88.5

Blocked: Twitter's Role In Combating Violent Extremism

Over the course of seven months, Twitter has suspended over 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.