Ham shortage hits holiday meals in Venezuela

christmas ham photo
Photo by WordRidden
Shortages in Venezuela have now hit an essential part of traditional Christmas and New Year’s meals, leaving frustrated citizens with a new holiday chorus: “We want our ham!”

Ham has been in short supply, sending people fed up with shortages of this and other essentials into the streets to protest.

“We didn’t have it for Christmas and it won’t be here for the New Year,” complains Miriam Brito during a protest in Caracas.

Similar small demonstrations have multiplied throughout Venezuela, but the government of President Nicolas Maduro — whose country was once one of the wealthiest in Latin America — has promised that ham would be among foods sold at subsidized prices.

Brito said she has gone four months without receiving food subsidies.

“They lied to us with ham,” said Brito, 40, the mother of a seven-year-old daughter.

Falling oil prices, political unrest, and corruption have decimated the economy under Maduro, leading to chronic food and medicine shortages, and inflation which the IMF forecasts will exceed 2,300 percent in 2018.

In November, creditors and ratings agencies declared the government and state-run oil firm PDVSA to be in partial default for missing interest and principle payments on bonds.

About 100 people bang on saucepans around Brito and use rope, tires and debris to set up a street blockade.

Venezuelans earn a minimum of roughly 450,000 bolivars per month, $135 at the official exchange rate, and $4.50 on the black market which is considered the reference rate.

That’s also the non-subsidized price for 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of pork, putting it out of reach for Brito, a cashier whose salary barely exceeds the legal minimum. (AFP)