Exorbitant prices force Venezuelans to look for alternatives for Christmas


CARACAS (Sputnik) – The high prices of traditional Christmas ornaments force Venezuelans to reuse and manage to decorate their homes during this period in the middle of the economic crisis, according to testimonies collected by Sputnik.

"I live with my family in a three-story house; before we decorated each floor, but now we only decorate a house with the ornaments that we kept from other years, and in that house it is that the whole family gathers to share on Christmas Eve; the ornaments Christmas is extremely expensive, "Kputbely Landaeta, 20, told Sputnik.

Meanwhile, Lili Gomez, a cashier in a clothing store, said she makes an effort to maintain the tradition despite the economic situation that is going through her country, so since October she has been shopping in several stores in the capital to buy "slowly".

"From the month of October I begin to buy little by little, because prices always increase in December; two months ago the scenes (Christmas spheres) cost me 20,000 bolivars (equivalent to 0.6 dollars, according to the official rate of 37,900 bolivars per dollar); now I went at the end of November and it already cost 100,000 bolivars (2.6 dollars), "he said.
The prices of artificial trees can vary between 2,400,000 bolivars ($ 60.5) and 600,000 bolivars ($ 15.3), while a set of lights is around 190,000 bolivars ($ 4).
In a tour that Sputnik made, he was able to confirm that, unlike previous years, on this occasion there are few shops and informal sellers that offer traditional Christmas items.

Juan Mendoza, who owns a job at a fair in the Chacaito sector, in the east of the capital, said that to date sales have been low.

"By this date one had already sold enough items, but this year people pass by and ask for prices and there are very few who buy," he said.

In Venezuela, most merchants sell the products at the price of a parallel dollar, which for this December 2 was quoted at 39,500 bolivars.

Clara Bastidas, a public sector employee, said she could buy natural pine trees before, but for two years because of the high prices, she has made her own tree with recycling items.
"The important thing is to keep the tradition: I grab a large plant that has dried and paint the trunk with white paint, I put two installations of lights and some scenes, and ready I have a small decorative tree at home, "he said.
Rene Dominguez, 57, said in dialogue with Sputnik that "nobody will steal" his Christmas, so he makes a lot of effort with some Christmas shopping to not break the tradition.

"We have a war from the outside, but in my case I will not allow that to affect me: in my house my sister and I live, and we make the effort to buy some things for the tree and the manger," he said.

For Maria Rincon, a resident of the state of La Guaira, before the ornaments, the most important thing is to have the traditional hallaca, so this year she chose to save money to be able to make the Christmas dish.

"The ornaments are the least, for me it is more important to make my findings, of course this year I will only do a little for 24 and 31, because the prices of the products are in the clouds and the salary does not reach," he said.
A traditional Venezuelan Christmas dish can cost in a restaurant between 200,000 and 360,000 bolivars (5.2 and 9.2 dollars).
On October 14, the Government of Nicolas Maduro increased the minimum wage by 150,000 bolivars per month ($ 4), and set the value of the food bonus to another 150,000 bolivars for an integral salary of 300,000 bolivars.

This is the third increase made by the Government of Maduro so far in 2019: the other two were set in January and April.

The government says it is facing an "economic war" that was exacerbated by the sanctions imposed by the United States.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated on October 15 that the Venezuelan economy will contract 35% this year and inflation will be 200,000%.

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