We’ve gotten used to hearing about chronic shortages in Venezuela – everything from food to medicine to condoms. Those hit Venezuelans where they live. Now there's a looming shortage that hits Venezuelans where they relax: Cerveza. Beer.
This is bad news for customers at Arepas, a Venezuelan sports bar in Miami Beach. They love ice-cold Polar – which is Venezuela’s most popular beer and a brand that’s well known outside the country as well.
But thanks to Venezuela’s worsening economic crisis, beer-making ingredients are running out – and beer-factory workers there are walking out. Industry experts say beer could start disappearing from Venezuelan shelves as early as next month.
"It's as if they told us there's no more gasoline in Venezuela," says Venezuela native and Arepas cook Alexander Aguilar. "We always joked that as long as we had beer and gasoline in Venezuela, we'd be OK."
Venezuelans like Aguilar know that not being able to buy beer is hardly as serious as not being able to buy food or medicine. But nonetheless it’s a sharp symbolic reminder of how far their oil-rich country’s economy has fallen.
Venezuelan native and Miami Beach resident Luis Palencia is a regular at Arepas, where he likes a bottle of Polar with his lunch.
“I feel bad, I feel bad, because Venezuela is a rich country, you know," says Palencia. "And we always had everything there – mangos, rice, you name it. It’s unbelievable that people have to go in a line to get food.”
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s currency, the bolívar, keeps plunging to new lows – and the country's inflation rate keeps hitting new highs.