Skip to main content

Facing shortages, Venezuela takes over toilet paper factory

By Marilia Brochetto and Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 10:05 PM EDT, Sat September 21, 2013
File photo of consumers buying rationed goods during the inauguration of the state-owned Bicentenario supermarket in Caracas in June.
File photo of consumers buying rationed goods during the inauguration of the state-owned Bicentenario supermarket in Caracas in June.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Venezuela occupies Paper Manufacturing Company's plant in Aragua, vice president says
  • VP: Nation won't "allow hoarding or failures in the production and distribution" of essentials
  • Government accuses companies of hoarding, blames media for fanning fears
  • Private firms says ill-conceived price control, currency policies have stifled production

(CNN) -- When you're running low on toilet paper and getting desperate, what do you do?

If you're the Venezuelan government, you take over a toilet paper factory.

On Saturday, Vice President Jorge Arreaza announced the "temporary occupation" of the Paper Manufacturing Company's plant in the state of Aragua. The aim, he explained, is to review the "production, marketing and distribution (of) toilet paper."

"The ... People's Defense from the Economy will not allow hoarding or failures in the production and distribution of essential commodities," the vice president said.

By the "People's Defense," Arreaza was referring to a government agency created on September 13 by President Nicolas Maduro to "defeat the economic war that has been declared in the country," according to a report from state-run ATV. This group is charged with looking at inefficiencies across various industries in the nation, including foods and other products, and taking action presumably in the South American nation's best interests.

Toilet paper is very much a part of the war.

The bathroom essential is one of the basic goods and foodstuffs that have been disappearing from store shelves since earlier this year. In Caracas, for instance, long lines are common whenever new rolls come in.

As the amount of TP and other products, such as rice and cooking oil, have lagged, the blame game has picked up.

Businesses and the political opposition say the shortages stem from ill-conceived government policies such as price controls on basic goods and tight restrictions on foreign currency. These moves make it so many producers can't even break even, they say.

But the government has said private companies aren't doing their part, accusing them of hoarding their products in hopes of selling it later at a higher price.

They've also suggested the problem is tied to a broader conspiracy.

"There is no deficiency in production," Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming said in May according to ATV, "but an excessive demand generating purchases by a nervous population because of a media campaign."

At that time, Fleming announced the country would import 50 million rolls of toilet paper to meet demand. Other hygiene products, such as toothpaste and soap, may be similarly brought in bulk for the same reason, the minister said.

Scissors-wielding thieves attack women in Venezuela

CNN's Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:31 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life checks off the last item.
updated 9:15 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Armed with Kalashnikovs and chanting for the dead comrades, women are among ISIS' most feared enemies. They are fighting for their families -- and now they are getting U.S. help.
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Lere Mgayiya put his best foot forward and set up a shoe-shine firm after his career plans fell flat.
updated 1:28 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
One Chinese drone manufacturer wants to take away the warmongering stigma of "drones."
updated 11:12 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Sketcher Luis Simoes is traveling the world -- slowly. And he's packed his sketchbook.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
European states help North Korea's brutal treatment of its people by allowing luxury goods like cars and cognacs to evade sanctions, two experts say.
updated 11:20 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Groping, lewd comments, and that's not the worst of it.
updated 9:33 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
British hostage John Cantlie appears from the battle city of Kobani.
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
A captured fighter tells CNN's Ivan Watson: "They gave us drugs... that made you go to battle."
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 7:06 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT