The President of the Chamber of Tourism of Venezuela’s Andean state of Mérida has warned tourists hoping to enjoy the state’s mountain vistas over the Easter holiday that they will have to bring their own soap and toilet paper to Mérida’s hotels.
Gerardo Montilla told the press this week that the shortages of necessary goods crippling the nation have greatly hurt his state’s tourism industry. Hotel owners in the region, he claimed, “are going through the embarrassment of having to tell their guests to bring toilet paper and bath soap.”
Montilla noted that, despite the shortages, Mérida has experienced an 86% increase in tourism this week, as predominantly Catholic Venezuelans take Holy Week off of work to travel and celebrate the Easter holiday. Mérida is renowned as a tourist destination for its lush mountain views and architecture.
Venezuela has been fighting a toilet paper shortage since 2013, though this is the first time that luxury hotels have endured what for years has been the status quo of the average Venezuelan. In September of that year, the government nationalized a toilet paper factory in the hope of forcing it to produce more of the necessary good, but that appeared to do little to prevent shortages from continuing to occur. The situation has worsened since the precipitous drop in oil prices, in part triggered by the United States fracking boom. As Argentine outlet Infobae notes, 96% of Venezuela’s export economy is in crude oil, which has made its ability to generate revenue increasingly difficult. The situation has turned so dire for the Venezuelan economy that Maduro cut free and reduced-price exports to Cuba and other Caribbean states in half.
In February, Venezuela signed a new trade deal with Trinidad & Tobago in which the island nation would provide Venezuela toilet paper in exchange for oil. Authorities hoped the deal would help stave off a new shortage.
The Venezuelan government under socialist President Nicolás Maduro has taken no responsibility regarding the severe scarcity plaguing the country since the tenure of deceased strongman Hugo Chávez. Instead, Maduro has blamed economic woes– which have resulted in rationing of basic goods like milk and flour and day-long lines at the supermarket– on the United States. In January, Maduro spoke of widespread protests against his government in the nation as part of “a design made to try to disrupt the people and take them to extreme situations, that is the vita concept to destabilize the nation.” He described the economic problems as an “economic coup on the march,” regularly accusing American diplomats of plotting to overthrow him.