The stench of failure.
First milk, butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short. Now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities — toilet paper.
Blaming political opponents for the shortfall, as it does for other shortages, the embattled socialist government says it will import 50 million rolls to boost supplies.
That was little comfort to consumers struggling to find toilet paper on Wednesday.
“This is the last straw,” said Manuel Fagundes, a shopper hunting for tissue in downtown Caracas. “I’m 71 years old and this is the first time I’ve seen this.”
One supermarket visited by The Associated Press in the capital on Wednesday was out of toilet paper. Another had just received a fresh batch, and it quickly filled up with shoppers as the word spread.
“I’ve been looking for it for two weeks,” said Cristina Ramos. “I was told that they had some here and now I’m in line.”
Economists say Venezuela’s shortages stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government’s controls on foreign currency.
“State-controlled prices — prices that are set below market-clearing price — always result in shortages. The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union,” said Steve Hanke, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University.