CARACAS – The Christ Child will not bring presents to many of the poorer homes of Venezuela this year despite the millions of toys the Nicolas Maduro government has said it will distribute around the country, with families saying that they feel abandoned and virtually buried by the ongoing economic and social crisis.
This year will close with accumulated inflation at more than 2,000 percent, according to the opposition-controlled Venezuelan Parliament, and the chances are that the Christ Child will not turn his efforts toward buying food, medicine or clothing for poor families, a situation that worsens the lower down the economic scale people find themselves.
In Petare’s 5 de Julio shantytown, a vast area sprawling over the hills in east Caracas, in a small brick dwelling lives Paula Navas, who raised her seven children – along with two others born to other women – alone. One of them, four-year-old Sofia, “needs insulin,” Navas said between sobs.
“This year, there’s nothing ... The toys for the kids, that’s a lie that they’ll get here via the community councils. All that they’ve said is a lie,” said Navas about Maduro’s announcement of the toy giveaway, to be implemented by the local CLAP production committees.
The CLAP committees were created last year so that door-to-door sales of subsidized food could be organized in the communities, a system broadened after the issuance of “Homeland ID Cards,” which are now indispensable if one is to gain access to various social benefits.
The government claims that the toy shortage is due to the “economic war” being waged from abroad against Venezuela, but the National Business Council says that fewer toy imports can be made because the exchange rate is controlled by the government.
Even if Sofia receives a present via the program this year, Navas said she will not allow her to take it outside “because that is too frustrating for the other kids who often don’t even have enough to eat.”
Nine-year-old Yeiderson’s mom told him that he will not be getting the remote-controlled toy car he wants this year because the Baby Jesus “doesn’t have any money.”
Unemployed Pedro Planchart, 65, who lives down the street with his wife and six other family members, said that he received one of the Homeland ID Cards a few weeks ago but “it’s not good for anything” and, despite Maduro’s promises, no CLAP representatives have approached him on any subject, including the toy distribution plan.
“How can (the kids) have toys? I don’t have any hope for anything,” he said indignantly.