Leaked Government Study Reveals Extent of Shortage Crisis in Venezuela

According to a leaked government report, at least 15 food items and 26 cleaning and personal-care products are unavailable in Venezuela.
According to a leaked government report, at least 15 food items and 26 cleaning and personal-care products are unavailable in Venezuela. (La Patilla)

EspañolFebruary 2014 was the last time the Venezuelan government released official figures concerning the lack of basic products in the country.

However, thanks to a leaked study conducted by the Office of the Vice President, Venezuelans are now learning their government’s own account of the shortage crisis.

The document, dated August 14 and released by local media on September 16, reveals that at least 15 food items and 26 cleaning and personal-care products are unavailable in Venezuelan stores. In most cases, the shortage rate surpasses 70 percent.

Although the document indicates that it is the 19th such study that the government has conducted in the country, it is the first to have been accessed by the press. Unlike other reports based on surveys and interviews, the data in the government’s report comes from direct observations in 312 establishments across 19 states.

The leaked charts confirm that at least 15 food items are virtually absent from market shelves. Pasteurized fruit juices are the least scarce (43 percent), while fruit compotes lead the shortage list (92 percent).

Furthermore, the study finds that 18 personal-care products are mostly unavailable to Venezuelans. Researchers, for example, could not locate baby diapers in 96 percent of the establishments observed, and only found toothpaste in 58 percent of those stores.

As for cleaning products, all eight of the items that researchers surveyed were found to be scarce in varying degrees. While laundry detergent remains the most widely available cleaning product, with a scarcity rate of 67 percent, dishwasher soap cannot be found in 88 percent of stores.

Researchers also found long lines both inside and outside 67 percent of state-run stores, and 66 percent of private businesses, that they visited.

In February 2015, the Venezuelan government arrested the CEO of supermarket chain Día Día, Manuel Morales, and accused him of provoking the large queues outside his stores amid the growing scarcity problem. However, according to this official government report, the issues involving the shortage crisis and long supermarket lines persist.

Economic War?

The report notes that the Nicolás Maduro administration undertook the study because of the alleged “economic war” that the country’s private sector is waging against the government by hoarding and smuggling goods.

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Óscar Meza, director of the Venezuelan Center for Documentation and Social Analysis (Cendas), tells the PanAm Post that the leak proves that the government has avoided disclosing the results of previous studies because they would expose their “failed socialist model.”

According to Meza, the government refuses to publicly recognize that the shortage problem even exists. He adds that studies like this further invalidate the notion of an “economic war,” since they demonstrate that state-run stores are equally affected by the shortage crisis.

Without corrective measures, Venezuelans are set to face “more hunger, hardships, and misery,” Meza warns.

Rising Costs

On top of scarcity issues, Venezuelans must also deal with the rising cost of food. On Thursday, September 17, Cendas reported that the monthly cost of an average Venezuelan family’s basic-food needs rose 19 percent in July.

According to their estimates, a Venezuelan family must earn $65,013.54 Bs. — roughly 8.8 minimum-wage salaries — to cover their essentials.

Cendas also reports that the overall shortage rate in the country reached 36.2 percent in August, and says bread is the latest product to disappear from store shelves. According to Meza, of the 58 products that Cendas studied last month, 49 of them are scarce, including 21 products that are considered basic necessities.

Translated by Rebeca Morla.

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