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Condoms Are Selling for $755 In Venezuela

Falling oil prices have led to empty government coffers, and as a result, the country is suffering from a shortage of imported products.

by VICE Staff
Feb 4 2015, 11:55pm

Photo via Flickr user trec_lit.

It's not easy being Venezuelan President Nicolas Marduro. For a long time now his country has pretty much been coasting on the revenues it gets from sitting on a massive supply of petroleum—oil makes up an estimated 95 percent of its export revenue, and 25 percent of the country's GDP comes from the oil and gas industries. Having such immense oil reserves definitely comes with benefits (as recently as 2014, gas was six cents a gallon), but with the price of oil falling, Maduro's country is now on the brink of financial collapse.

Venezuelans now wait in long lines for rationed food, which has gotten more scarce as oil prices have plummeted. But there are other indications that the South American nation is falling apart: According to listings on the marketplace Mercado Libre, Venezuelans are now paying up to $775 for a 36-pack of Trojan condoms.

The economics behind this situation are pretty simple: A drop in export revenue means that the government has less money to spend on imports and social services. "Instead of cutting social spending," Bloomberg reported today, "Maduro has responded to lower revenue by slashing imports."

Venezuela now has an inflation rate of above 50 percent, and in Caracas, a box of tampons costs $17; a two-liter of Coke is $7. And that's if you happen to catch a store when its shelves aren't empty. For its part, the government is blaming private business owners for the shortages of goods, reported VICE News today—the country's intelligence agency even arrested several pharmacy executives "on allegations that they had conspired to create the spectacle of hundreds of people lining up for scarce goods to embarrass his administration and foster a counterrevolution."

Whoever's to blame, according to Bloomberg condoms started flying off the shelves in December and are now basically impossible to find.

It gets worse: Abortion is illegal in Venezuela, which means that if a girl with no access to condoms gets pregnant, she's either having the baby or visiting an unregulated clinic.

This isn't the first time that there's been a condom shortage in a country with a state-run economy. Last April, Cuba wasn't able to meet its citizens' high demand for contraceptives and couldn't stock pharmacy shelves. And since that was exactly nine months ago, data should be rolling in soon on how condom shortages affect teenage pregnancy rates.

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