Acutely aware of Venezuela’s growing economic destitution, the government of Trinidad & Tobago has proposed exchanging Venezuelan oil for Trinidadian toilet paper, to keep supplies in the South American nation’s market replenished.
Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the beginning of negotiations to trade products manufactured in the Caribbean nation with Venezuela, as President Nicolás Maduro prepared to conclude his trip to the West Indies. Trinidad and Tobago, located in the southern Caribbean, is less than seven miles away from Venezuelan shores.
According to Bloomberg News, Persad-Bissessar is seeking favorable prices in crude oil in exchange for offering Caracas toilet paper, which has become a difficult-to-find commodity in the socialist nation. “The concept of commodity sharing is simple -– the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will purchase goods identified by the Government of Venezuela from T&T’s manufacturers, such as tissue paper, gasoline, and parts for machinery,” the Prime Minister told the press.
In addition to commodities trading, the two nations agreed on a deal to explore the waters in between the two nations for natural gas. Trinidad and Tobago is currently the largest exporter of both oil and natural gas in the Caribbean.
Argentine news outlet Infobae notes that the two nations already have significant trade relations, with Trinidad & Tobago providing Venezuela with refined oil, air conditioner and machinery parts, and cement, while importing crude oil, iron minerals, and iron products from Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government imposes a socialist economic model on its market, which has triggered shortages in multiple necessary goods, from detergent to flour to, yes, toilet paper. Venezuela’s multiple toilet paper shortages made headlines in both 2013 and 2014; in 2013, the government seized and nationalized a toilet paper factory in an attempt to stop the shortage, but only succeeded in exacerbating it.
Venezuela introduced a ration card system in 2013 to quell the shortages, which created a black market of products bought by those not needing the products and resold to those rationed out of buying more for a mark-up price. Installing fingerprint scanners to prevent individuals from buying more than their quota failed, instead producing lines so long at supermarkets that some have chosen to stand in supermarket lines for a living. For a price, some Venezuelans will wake up at dawn and spend up to four hours queueing up to buy paper towels, milk, or vegetable oil.
Those who have attempted to draw the attention of the international community to the scarcities faced by Venezuelan citizens have been punished. Maduro’s government recently criminalized the use of cellular phones to take photos of empty supermarket shelves or long lines.