By Jessica Dos Santos
Since I have use of consciousness, my mother has been a woman of solutions. That’s why, in my childhood home, it was she who solved everything: the broken toilet, the water leak, replacing lightbulbs.
In this way, my old woman, without knowing or wanting to, raised a woman independent enough not to choose a man “to solve her life”. But, in addition, I was instilled with a kind of obsession: I like people who do not stop on “buts”, which strive for solutions (from an honest perspective, of course).
That’s why, when all this economic setback began, I had some ability to swim or at least stay afloat in the middle of the swell.
Between one thing and another, I remember that I was one of the few (I think few) people refused to stand in long queues to buy products.
So: I never got up early to position myself outside the Farmatodo located steps from my house, I did not escape from the office to stand in line at the Gama Express according to my last ID number, nor did I kill myself in any Locatel.
The reasons? First, to do so was to risk dying from an “arrechera” (piss off). Second, in my personal universe, those products could be replaced by others (if there was no corn flour I simply boiled bananas, made tortillas, ate fruit, used oatmeal). And finally, for me time has always been a good too valuable, and I’m almost never willing to let it be stolen (although lately I’ve had to sell it at the lowest price).
However, today the scenario, at least in Caracas, has undergone major changes. First, there are no queues, prices are so high (including that of the mentioned flour) that the shelves are kept full and without much demand. Second, everything that could be “alternative” has ceased to be so.
Today everything is beyond the budget: from the half egg carton to the banana bag of the corner truck. Some weeks neither the seasonal fruit, nor the popular yucca, or the generous auyama, are accessible.
These days, while everyone was debating the need for a boycott against the high prices of the PAN Flour, which are the same as Doña Goya Flour (a company that received US $ 5 million in financing from the State and whose owner has been interviewed again and again on VTV), I tried to buy pilau corn (maiz pilao): 8,500 a kilo. Wow, there was almost no difference (from the economic point of view).
In the middle of this panorama, I had to expand my problem solving capacity. For that reason, I began to devise new formulas that would allow me to survive. In the transit, a couple of things captured, irremediably, my attention:
In the “Mercado de Coche”, as everywhere, the prices are very high, but on Saturdays at noon things are about to close. And, of course, you can get some things more “cheaply” but … in cash! Although there, as in the rest of the country, they no longer accept the 2, 5, or 10 Bolívar bills, that is, the usefulness of the monetary reconversion has not lasted even a year.
But, in addition, Coche is part of the 8 municipal and wholesale markets the Government intervened in last June 2018.
“With this decision we will take the necessary corrective measures before the mark up of prices, hoarding and bachaqueo. This is part of the first stage of the Market Approach Operation that contemplates reviewing a total of 97 markets nationwide,” El Aissami said at that time.
What correctives? A year later, there are the same evils combined with the mafias, both cash and rented electronic payment devices, but now under the eyes and even collaboration of some members of the Bolivarian National Guard.
At the same time, both in the “Mercado de coche”, and in some bachaqueo stalls (for example: Avenida Fuerzas Armadas-La Panteón), the new fashion is to exchange CLAP products.
However, the barter is not usually very fair: one gives two products and they give you one. In some cases, you have to give three to, for example, get half a carton of eggs. The transaction, additionally, sometimes takes place in a sort of “hooligan” odious style.
I, under other conditions, would not encourage an exchange like that. But, lately, my CLAP box has six kilos of grains or rice, and a lot of missing products (it’s not very similar to the one shown by President Nicolás Maduro on May 28. By the way, they should not promise coffee, if on the 2 December 2016 they said that from January 2017, the boxes would bring hygiene products … And here we are).
Also, there are some characters who roam the streets of Caracas with a “melody” that has already become iconic: “sugar to trade”. The sugar seems packaged. However, when you look at it closely, it is recycled packaging glued with tape or silicone on the back. One can assume that it’s sack sugar … how much … but what if it’s not like that?
Between one thing and another, our patterns of revision, healthiness, etc., have been lost and the economy is there: getting away with it, dancing between bachaqueo, unequal bartering, the rise of endless stores of imported products, and a fury of new businesses selling “chic” cocada, so many that they sound like money laundering.
Translated by JRE/EF