An unlikely character is making her way under Christmas trees in Venezuela this year as the highlight of President Nicolas Maduro’s “Operation Merry Christmas.” The Detroit News reports that Barbies are flying off the shelves in Caracas, where the dolls costs as little as $2.50.
Last month, Maduro launched “Operation Merry Christmas,” which lowers the prices of goods like clothes, appliances, and toys. The initiative is intended to help alleviate some of the effect that Venezuela’s notoriously high rate of inflation has on citizens’ Christmas shopping. According to Reuters, retailers are banned from marking up the price on anything more than 30%; Barbie is actually being sold at an 80% discount.
According to Reuters, the initiative could also potentially increase Maduro’s poll numbers, which are low as a result of Venezuela’s struggling economy. The Detroit News reports that Maduro presented the operation as an effort to keep speculators from spoiling Christmas.
Barbie in Venezuela does seem a little odd — the blonde-haired, blue-eyed doll has arguably long been a symbol for capitalist consumerism, and it is derided by leftists in Venezuela as such. Maduro’s predecessor and mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez, even dismissed Barbie as stupid.
Venezuelan parents who are shopping for other toys this holiday season need to be aware that some toys, which may seem harmless, can actually injury or hurt their children — pretty much the opposite of what “Operation Merry Christmas” is all about. The number of toy-related injuries fluctuates, but is consistently in the hundreds of thousands. In the U.S. in 1997, there were about 140,000; in 2001, around 255,000 kids suffered injuries from playing with toys; and in 2006, approximately 220,000 toy-related injuries were reported.
But Barbie isn’t the only product that Venezuelan shoppers are picking up at low prices this holiday season — they’re also camping out for refrigerators, plasma screen televisions, and computers at government-run fairs this December.
The discounts on products like these are meant to keep retailers from being able to exploit peoples’ need to buy Christmas presents, but can sometimes force a retailer to sell the product at a loss.