Venezuela’s residents, government search for ways to cope with hyperinflation

World Today

Venezuela’s residents, government search for ways to cope with hyperinflationA man shows new Venezuelan bank notes he withdrew from a cash machine in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. The new currency has five fewer zeros in a bid to tame soaring inflation. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

This week, thousands of businesses closed as Venezuela launched a new currency. The new banknotes are aimed at curbing hyperinflation. The price of goods in Venezuela, on average, doubles every 26-days. CGTN’s Juan Carlos Lamas tells us how people are coping with the skyrocketing prices.

Six years ago, Ana Cedeno found out she had breast cancer. The diagnosis forced her to quit her job of 30 years as a social worker. Now, because of the rampant inflation, her pension combined with her husband’s salary comes to less than two U.S. dollars a month.

“We have been able to eat because we’ve been selling personal items to buy protein like eggs, and that’s it,” she said.

Like many in crisis-stricken Venezuela, Cedeno struggles to feed her family amid soaring prices and shortages. While some have taken to eating spoiled meat, Ana boils dirty water to cook with and drink.

“Once I have nothing left to sell, I don’t know what we’ll do,” Cedeno said. “Maybe I’ll become a street merchant, or start selling lemonade or something.”

Each month, Cedeno’s family gets a government subsidized food box. But she said the rice, oil and flour are not enough to feed her family of four.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blames the crisis on what he calls “imperialist forces” waging an economic war on Venezuela. In addition to issuing new bank notes, the government has announced a 3,000 percent increase in the minimum wage that is due to take effect on September 1st, along with higher corporate taxes. But the IMF predicts Venezuela’s economy will shrink by 18 percent this year, and inflation could still hit 1,000,000 percent.

“Erasing zeros from the notes does not solve the problem which led you to take them out of circulation,” economist Luis Vicente Leon said. “If the government doesn’t control the hyperinflation, three months from now, the new notes will be worthless.”

Shopping for her family at a street market in Caracas, Cedeno doubts that runaway inflation will ease.

“Two bananas and seven tomatoes – this is all the food I could buy with my salary for the next month,” she said. “In Venezuela, there’s no education, no medicine–the list goes on. This is tough. Each day is a constant battle to continue living.”

In the meantime, Cedeno is unable to get proper treatment for her cancer, and as the crisis continues to roil the country, she said she’s considering following in the footsteps of the two million fellow Venezuelans that the U.N. said have fled the country in recent years.