Venezuela's running out of toilet paper

Amid skyrocketing inflation and a contracting economy, Venezuelan consumers have been faced with widespread shortages of products. Nicolás Maduro’s government blames hoarders looking to destabilize the government, but businesses and economists say it’s the result of government price controls that discourage production and restrictions on foreign currency and make it difficult for manufacturers to purchase raw materials.

Food, car parts, cooking oil, detergent, and household appliances have all been in short supply. But it’s toilet paper that has been the iconic product of the shortage, with fresh rolls quickly running out from stores amid overwhelming demand. In late 2013 the government seized control of a toilet paper factory and announced plans to import millions of rolls, but shortages have continued.

Not unrelatedly, the political situation remains volatile as well. The government published new guidelines in January allowing police to use deadly force against protesters if they felt they were at risk. And police did just that on Tuesday, killing a teenage boy during an antig-overnment demonstration in the city of San Cristobal. Maduro also ordered the arrest this week of a mayor he accused of attempting to orchestrate a coup.