As socialist Venezuela’s economic woes continue, many Venezuelans are struggling to afford the most basic of hygiene products, such as toothpaste, a report from The Washington Post reveals.
“I’ve always loved brushing my teeth before going to sleep. I mean, that’s the rule, right?” said cosmetic worker Ana Margarita Rangel, who lives in one of the slums, known as barrios, 25 miles west of Caracas. “Now I have to choose. So I do it only in the mornings.”
Rangel earns the recently raised minimum wage of 97,531 bolivars a month, which on Venezuela’s official exchange rate equates to around $70 a month but only holds a real market worth of $12.53. However, the currency is rapidly losing value, with inflation in Venezuela expected to rise by as much as 1500 percent this year.
As a result, Rangel and the 32 percent of Venezuelans who earn minimum wage cannot afford basic sanitary products such as toothpaste, as well as other basic resources such as food and medicine.
The Venezuelan government now sets price caps on basic food products, such as pasta, rice, and flour, but people are forced to queue for hours in hot temperatures to buy them, with many missing out.
Like millions of Venezuelans, Rangel has cut key proteins from her diet, such as chicken, beef, and fruit, even though she pools her income with her three children who also have jobs.
“We always end up talking about all those things we can’t get anymore,” she said, reportedly welling up as she did so. “I don’t spend my afternoons cooking anymore because I don’t have meat to season or vegetables to cut.”
A recent report found that over 15 percent of Venezuelans are forced to scavenge through waste as a means of survival, while a majority of people go to bed hungry.
Another individual in Rangel’s neighborhood, 30-year-old Rainer Figueroa, told The Post that he has had to stop playing soccer as he needs to preserve calories. Having lost 24 pounds in the past six months, he now eats just two meals a day and rations in order to feed his three children.
Daily protests are now taking place across Venezuela calling for fresh elections against socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro. According to a running tally at Venezuelan outlet RunRunes, at least 108 people have died since the opposition began protests in April as police up their brutality with the use of water cannons and rubber bullets.