Nip, tuck, and pay up: Cosmetic surgery thrives in struggling Venezuela

World Today

Venezuela is suffering critical shortages of prescription drugs and basic medical supplies. But as this medical crisis worsens, the cosmetic surgery industry is thriving.

CGTN’s Juan Carlos Lamas reports.

Yanuaria Verde is getting her home in order, so everything will be convenient when she comes home from the clinic. The 26-year-old Venezuelan model will have her fourth cosmetic surgery.

Yanuaria is concerned about keeping up her looks, and she says quadruple digit inflation won’t stop her from getting the surgery she wants.

“Prices here are way cheaper than in other countries,” the model explained. “I pay using my savings, which are in dollars thanks to my work as a model. If I didn’t have access to foreign currency, then I wouldn’t be talking about getting surgery.”

This time she’ll get a tummy tuck, and liposuction in her arms and legs. All for less than $2,000.

Her previous cosmetic surgeries taught her to be prepared.

“Here in Venezuela, the problem is not what happens in the operating room, but finding the postoperative treatment. In my last three surgeries I didn’t take antibiotics or anything.”

The cosmetic surgery business is booming in Venezuela, fueled by Venezuelans with access to dollars, and foreigners who travel to the country looking for a deal. The devaluation of the Venezuelan bolívar and demand for U.S. dollars has driven down the cost of cosmetic surgery to be the least expensive in the world.

Cosmetic Surgeon Garbis Kaakedjian says nearly half his patients come from Brazil, Colombia, the U.K., and even the U.S. Most of them want breast augmentation, and though he says he has no difficulty getting the implants, he does caution his patients about what to bring with them.

“We always inform patients from abroad about the shortages of medicines in Venezuela, and we recommend they bring their antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pills for the postoperative period,” the surgeon said. “It’s easier for them to acquire the medicine in their countries. Here it would be impossible.”

Even though fashion and beauty are luxuries for most Venezuelans, given the current economic crisis, big hair, lots of makeup, and cosmetic surgery are more popular than ever for those who can afford it.

For beauty pageant contestants and models like Yanuaria, cosmetic surgery is seen as critical for success in fields that promote perfection. And for Venezuela’s cosmetic surgeons, business is better than ever.