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Saturday, April 16, 2016
THINGS GETTING ROUGH IN VENEZUELA
CARACAS: Things in Venezuela keep finding ways to get worse. Because of acute shortages, people can’t find basics like toilet paper. Now, it will be harder to make overseas calls or watch pay TV.
The problem is this: the global drop in oil prices has made dollars much more scarce in Venezuela — which is dependent almost totally on petroleum for hard currency. So local telecoms companies don’t have greenbacks to pay international suppliers.
President Nicolas Maduro’s leftist government controls the currency market, and distributes dollars to private companies as it sees fit.
The government owes local companies around 700 million dollars, which these firms need to honor obligations with foreign providers, according to the Chamber of Telecommunications Services Companies.
So as a result, for instance, the Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica will temporarily suspend this week long distance phone service for calls to countries such as the United States, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Brazil, Colombia and Panama.
Mobile phone company Digitel, which is privately owned, has halted long distance calling services and international roaming since April 9 because it cannot reach agreement with providers on new payment timetables.
But it is not just telephone service that is affected. State-run television company Cantv, which provides cable service says it is reviewing contracts with providers of local and international content. That means there is less to watch on TV in Venezuelan living rooms.
All this comes on top of the day to day problems Venezuelans face just trying to buy basic necessities like food and medicine. This also stems from the shortage of dollars. The economy contracted 5.7 percent in 2015. – AFP