How hard is it to find coffee in Caracas? What is the cost of a cup of coffee in Caracas?
CNN tries to answer these questions with this brief video. My response to the video follows.
To start, CNN simplified the issue. For example, Minerva’s 40 BsF cup of coffee indeed costs $6, but that is calculated at the official rate which is only currently reserved for the most plugged in government officials who make tons of money from imports. Nobody calculates anymore at the official 6.3 rate. These days most local Venezuelans don’t calculate anything except how they are going to survive. They watch with horror as inflation speeds up and they worry about the economic strangulation it brings. Coffee is one thing. What if one chicken costs more than you make in a day, even when you are being paid 30% more than the minimum wage? No chicken.
Way on the other end of the spectrum, where we function, the parallel rate for the dollar is at 250 BsF. Which would put the cup of coffee at 16 cents. Or those four liters of milk she bought? About a dollar. And every day the chasm widens.
One thing that I like about the video is that the stores they have Minerva visit are in our neighborhood. I’ve had that very same cafe con leche at the panaderia on Calle Orinoco. The place she went ask for coffee is a little fruteria two doors down. Easy enough to stop in and ask if you are already at the panaderia, but one wouldn’t really expect to see coffee there, (though they used to sometimes have it). After the guy in the orange shirt (quite a nice man, by the way), denies her coffee request, she goes to Bicentenario which is a government grocery store in our neighborhood. They captured the reality of the lines, notably the fact that people stand in them without knowing what is even available at the store. The second supermarket she goes to is Plazas Express, located on the other end of Las Mercedes. Plazas is a private supermarket so they often have things that the government stores don’t, but the prices are higher and the lines are still way long when the most scarce items arrive.
It’s not easy to witness first hand the economic situation here, especially when you take the time to listen to the stories of the average person who is, after all, the one most affected by the instability. In the face of the difficulties our friends and neighbors are forced to endure we practice compassion and we focus on respecting the dignity of each individual who crosses our path.