Chavez Price Caps Spark Panic Buying of Coffee, Toilet Paper
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s move to expand price controls this week sparked panic purchases by consumers, leading to shortages of everything from coffee to toilet paper.
People are buying more than they need to stock their homes and resell the products at a profit in the black market, Food Minister Carlos Osorio said yesterday on state television. The authorities are visiting stores to ensure the availability of regulated products, he said.
“I’m buying everything that’s on the price control list that’s going to be regulated,” retired schoolteacher Elena Ramirez, 56, said in an interview at a Dulcinea supermarket in Caracas where she bought 12 packages of toilet paper, each with four rolls. “Everyone is in the same game. It’s madness.”
Under regulations that took effect on Nov. 22, the government can fix the price of 15,000 goods in an attempt to slow inflation that reached 26.9 percent in October, the highest in the Western Hemisphere. Chavez immediately ordered a freeze on the price of 18 personal care items ranging from toothpaste to deodorant until mid-January to prevent monopolies from “ransacking the people.”
“The law of supply and demand is a lie,” Karlin Granadillo, the head of a price control agency set up to enforce the new regulations, said yesterday on state television. “These are not arbitrary measures. They are necessary.”