WASHINGTON, November 13, 2014 — Barbie, the iconic doll with the oft-debated measurements, appears to have received a pardon from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Barbie has had a difficult time in Socialist Venezuela. Former President Hugo Chavez was a public Barbie-hater. He denounced the doll, calling it “stupid” and urged local toy makers to create their own Venezuelan doll. He said Venezuelans should replace Barbie with “little indigenous dolls.”
The Socialist government again condemned Barbie by name last year, citing the doll as a symbol of capitalism and the infiltration of the United States into Venezuela. It also scoffed at the proportions of Barbie, echoing statements by women’s rights groups that the doll objectifies women.
But under Maduro, Barbie may be OK. As part of his “Operation Merry Christmas,” Maduro has declared a special discount for the doll.
Barbie dolls usually sell for about $30 dollars each in Venezuela, but under the new order from Maduro, the price cannot exceed $2.50.
The President has also slashed the prices of appliances, computers, and televisions.
But Barbie has a special place among Christmas shoppers.
One Venezuelan mother told CDN by phone that she had purchased “about 10 of the dolls…for my kids and my nieces.” She managed to score all the dolls from a single store, which she said, “We took right from the boxes before they were even on the shelves.”
The shopper told CDN that soldiers were standing by in the stores, “To make sure the price tag was not above $2.50.”
Although the Socialist government is no fan of the doll, Barbie is wildly popular in Venezuela. A teenager in Caracas giggled when she said, “Really, we all want to look like her. And we want to be Miss Venezuela.”
Venezuela is notorious for its love of plastic surgery and ranks as having one of the highest cosmetic surgery rates in the world. It is also obsessed with beauty pageants.
Maduro’s motivation for the massive price reductions is unclear. Neither he nor his party is facing elections in the near term, so it does not appear to be an effort to build public popularity. However, with his popularity hovering 30%, the President may be seeking to gain some points with the electorate.
Supporters say the President is doing a good thing. One Chavista said, “He just wants us to have a good Christmas. He wants every little Venezuelan girl her own Barbie. Is that so bad?”
Economists say it is.
Maduro has intervened in the economy multiple times over the last year, seizing stores and giving away the contents. He has capped prices, causing massive shortages of everything from flour, sugar and toilet paper to breast implants. The latest intervention is likely to cause further economic dislocations. Shortages are likely to increase.
One store-owner noted, “How can you make a living when you buy something for $10 and Maduro says you must sell it for $2? I’m better closing my doors.”
The black market, however, is thriving.