|Ask anyone how much their new iPhone 6 cost, and the answer is likely to be “too much.” But there’s no better way to put it in perspective than to take a look at how much this smartphone currently costs in Venezuela: a whopping 300,000 bolivars, roughly equal to $47,678 USD.
In a recent report, Bloomberg found that the theft of smartphones is on the rise in Venezuela, as a direct result of the country’s crumbling economy. Considering that at least half of all mobile phone users access the internet primarily on their smartphones — even in countries like Venezuela — it’s easy to understand why one Venezuelan woman toldBloomberg “It’s the same feeling of helplessness as when you have to go to three or four supermarkets looking for toilet paper or oil or flour.”
Maria Veronica Fernandez, 24, was describing how she was robbed at gunpoint this past May; the thieves stole her Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, which TIME explains would cost the equivalent of a few thousand U.S. dollars.
Venezuelans aren’t just struggling to come up with the money to pay for these items; often, they’re simply not available for any price. The primary problem affecting the country is that it can’t afford to import foreign goods, causing widespread shortages for basic items and luxury items alike.
The skyrocketing inflation rate in Venezuela is a result of the country’s failing oil export industry. As Bloomberg explains, oil accounts for 95% of the country’s exports. After the price of crude oil fell by 50% in 2014 — combined with the tumultuous political situation and repressive governing that has become common under President Maduro — the country hasn’t been able to recoup its losses.
The annual inflation rate was at 69% in December 2014; officials stopped releasing data on the country’s financial state when the new year began, so economists can only estimate that the current inflation rate is in “triple digits.”
So why exactly is the cost of an iPhone so high, and why is theft such a common occurrence with smartphones?
Part of the problem is that the Venezuelan government has been attempting — and failing — to control imports, meaning that it’s more feasible to acquire something through the country’s black market if you’re willing to pay a little (or a lot) extra.
Electronics, like cellphones, are in high demand; they’re also easy to smuggle in, to steal, and to tweak at a repair shop in order to make the device unrecognizable.
The high rate of crime, along with accessible weapons like knives and guns, make an iPhone theft a matter of life or death.
“You never know how you’re going to react in a situation like that,” Fernandez stated. “In the end, all you can do is settle, and it really sucks.”