Venezuelans flying to U.S. to stock up on food, toilet paper

I’ve written before about the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who crossed the border into Colombia with suitcases in tow in order to stock up on groceries. Today CNN Money has a report on an even more extreme case of TP tourism. Some middle class Venezuelans are flying to the U.S. to visit family and then returning home with luggage packed full of food:

Carmen Mendoza came to New York to visit her daughter Anabella — and also to buy toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, beans, corn flour, tuna fish, mayonnaise and aspirin.

Mendoza has spent the past month in New York with her daughter and realizes she’s lost a sense of what normalcy means. In Venezuela, she lived without toilet paper for a month in July, using paper napkins instead…

She isn’t alone. About half a million Venezuelans visited the United States last year. Increasingly, Venezuelans living in the U.S. say their friends and family who can afford it are coming to America to buy basics.

“It’s just a testament to how badly the country is being managed,” says Beatriz Ramos, a Venezuelan tech entrepreneur, who lives in New York. Ramos has hosted six friends from Venezuela this year: “It’s been steadily getting worse and worse and worse.”

The story points out that even getting to America from Venezuela is becoming very difficult. Many airlines have stopped offering flights to Venezuela after the country refused to pay them using a realistic exchange rate. Now airlines flying to the U.S. simply refuse to take bolivars at all. Add to that the triple-digit inflation and getting to America is extremely difficult for most Venezuelans.

The question I have about this is the same one I had when I wrote about people cashing out their savings to buy food in Colombia: Why do they go back? There really isn’t much cause to hope things are going to improve in Venezuela. It’s being run as a socialist dictatorship at this point. Even if President Maduro is somehow ousted next year his party will remain in power and the big picture will not change. Except that the same problems will likely get much worse. What good does it do to use all the resources you have for one shopping trip abroad if you know the food will last a month but the problems are likely to last years? It must be a horrible thing to consider abandoning your home and everything you know, but it’s better than trying to survive on the Maduro diet.

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David Strom 8:01 AM on October 03, 2022