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Giant Costco Products Are Popping Up On Shelves Across Venezuela And Many Are Left Wondering How

The relationship between the United States and Venezuela is perhaps the most confrontational it has ever been, as the Trump and Maduro administration often trade jabs on social media and through diplomatic channels. The United States is set on decimating the economy of the country by way of economic and trade sanctions, while the government led by Nicolás Maduro has definitely not made things easier for its citizens.

Measures of austerity and the fact that many foreign companies are fleeing the country has led to daily financial struggle and lack of even the most basic products for Venezuelans, many of whom have decided to flee to the United States, Australia and Europe if they belong to the elite, or to neighbouring Colombia as migrants if they have to survive as refugees. However, if Latin Americans set themselves apart for anything, it  is the creative ways in which we survive and find opportunities that few would spot.

An increasing influx of US products are flooding Venezuelan shelves.

Credit: Manaure Quintero / Reuters

But how is this possible if trade between the countries is practically at a standstill? Well, people have taken matters on their own hands. Venezuelan businessmen have established a distribution network of basic products such as non perishing food and toiletries bought in bulk at discount stores in Florida such as Costco. These products are then sent to Venezuela on a door to door delivery service. Once in Venezuela they are put on the shelves of bodega style shops called bodegones.

Reuters reports on how this informal economy works: “The products move in bulk via shipping companies with bases in south Florida who have this year enjoyed a 100% exemption of import duties and waiver of some paperwork at the Venezuelan end, the sources added.”

Because the formal commercial relationships between Venezuela and the US are stalled, this type of activity is possible and provides what Reuters calls an unlikely valve that relieves some pressure for Maduro’s government, which has led to an unprecedented lack of basic products such as toilet paper. 

Some of the shops are even named after the original United States stores.

Credit: Manaure Quintero / Reuters

This shop located in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, is named after Walmart, and we are sure that the headquarters in the United States are either unaware or don’t really care. Costco is not the only shop in which buyers in the United States acquire goods to send to Venezuela (for a fee, of course). There are services through which Venezuelas can mail goods to United States addresses from shops like Target. This is a type of informal economy that has boomed due to the scarcity of local products.

However, let’s keep in mind that the social gap is huge, perhaps insurmountable at this point, and that these products are sold at hefty prices that few can afford. As Reuters reports: “Though the goods in the corner-shops are out of reach for most bolivar-earning Venezuelans, a well-heeled elite with dollars makes for a viable business in indulgence products.”

Hector Mambe, owner of this Mini Walmart, told Reuters: “Everything our customers want from the United Sates, we’ve managed to offer here!”

The response of US companies? Deaf silence. As Reuters informs us: “Costco declined to comment, while Walmart did not respond to a request. Venezuela’s Information Ministry, tax authority and state port agency also did not respond to requests for comment.” Business seems to be booming right?

And many of these shops are dollar-only.

Credit: Manaure Quintero / Reuters

As the Bolivar depreciated, Maduro lifted the ban on dollar transactions. Just like happened in socialist Cuba before with tourist-only shops, there are establishments in Venezuela that only trade in US dollars, which is counter intuitive to the anti-imperialist rhetoric of the post-Chavez Venezuela. Other Global South economies have relied in the US dollar in the past, such as Cambodia, where the booming tourist industry trades almost exclusively in the foreign currency. 

And this practice is out in the open, it has ceased to be secretive, and people are criticizing it.

Timothy Aeppel, a journalist for Reuters, stresses the irony of not being to buy medicine in the country, but cake mix is now available if you have the cash. One of the many contradictions of the Maduro regime. Even though the government still has some support from fellow socialist nations in South America and elsewhere, even the most fierce defenders of the Venezuela Chavista sometimes find it hard to justify the economic decisions that have led the South American nation to a generalized state of anxiety and desperation.

While others think that this only serves the elites.

Yes, there are more products available now due to this strange availability of US brands, but is this another way of just perpetuating the class differentials between those who support Maduro and those who oppose him?

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Micro TDH And Myke Towers’ “El Tren” Collab Is Bound To Be A Runaway Hit

Latidomusic

Micro TDH And Myke Towers’ “El Tren” Collab Is Bound To Be A Runaway Hit

Venezuelan singer-songwriter Micro TDH released his new single “El Tren.” Puerto Rican rapper Myke Towers hitches a ride on their real-life train in the music video.

Micro TDH is one of Venezuela’s premier rapper-singers.

“El Tren” is Micro TDH’s second taste of new music this year. In February, he released the acoustic ballad “Ni Vivo Ni Muerto” with fellow Venezuelan artist Lasso. That music video has over 17 million views.

Though Micro TDH’s songs are very romantic right now, he started out as a rapper in Venezuelan’s Latin trap scene. He rose to prominence in the country with Big Soto, another local rapper-turned-singer. The two recently collaborated on the song “Lloro” on Big Soto’s The Good Trip album.

Micro TDH is breaking through globally thanks to his work with Karol G’s producer.

In 2018, Micro TDH became more of a global presence after signing with Big Ligas. The label is headed by Colombian producer Ovy on the Drums, who is most known for his hits with Karol G. Micro TDH’s first hit with Big Ligas was “Aqui Estoy,” which has over 26 million views on YouTube. He is a versatile artist who can rap and sing his heart out.

Micro TDH and Myke Towers send their exes packing with the most loving lyrics.

“El Tren” definitely goes down more of the románticas route. Micro TDH wrote the song with Myke Towers and Ovy on the Drums, who also produced it. Spanish guitar and reggaeton beats soundtrack Micro TDH and Towers’ sweet goodbye to their exes. Any chance for reconciliation has left with the last train out of town. Micro TDH and Towers come through with a dreamy kiss-off track.

Since working with Big Ligas, Micro TDH has released a string of hit singles. Towers recently dropped his new album Lyke Mike.

Click here for Latido Music, 24/7 Latin music videos & more

Read: Venezuela’s Big Soto Breakout: Our 5 Favorite Songs on ‘The Good Trip’

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Venezuelan Rising Star Carmen DeLeon Talks Break-Up Inspired “Pasado” and How Her Abuelos Inspired “Cafecito”

Latidomusic

Venezuelan Rising Star Carmen DeLeon Talks Break-Up Inspired “Pasado” and How Her Abuelos Inspired “Cafecito”

Carmen De Leon is a rising star hailing from Caracas, Venezuela. The 20-year-old singer moved to Tampa, Florida when she was 10 years old and then two years later moved with her family to Barcelona, Spain and lived there for six years. While in Spain, Carmen found success participating in La Voz, and started to build a following that would tune in every week to see her perform. Then she lived in Mexico for a year, Los Angeles for another year and is now settled in Miami working on her music career.

In an exclusive interview with Latido Music by mitú, Carmen De Leon talked to us about her latest single “Pasado” with Cali y El Dandee, from which she drew inspiration from her very own break-up and reminiscing about the past. We also touched on “Cafecito“, the bittersweet song in memory of her grandparents, her dream collab, and more.

Pasado” is inspired by Carmen De Leon’s real-life breakup.

Carmen recruited Colombian singers Cali y El Dandee for her latest single “Pasado,” blending 80s synthpop with reggaeton, a true popetón hit you can dance to and perhaps cry to.

On working with Cali y El Dandee, Carmen has nothing but praise for the Colombian duo, “they are like my brothers, they’re insanely talented, genuine and humble.”

It was Dandee who actually wanted her to let her feelings all out for the song.

“At that moment while I was writing the song, I was actually breaking up with my boyfriend, and I had Mauricio (Dandee) saying to me: ‘Just tell me more. Whatever you’re texting him, say it out loud so we have the right words for the song’ and that’s what we did,” Carmen says.

Just like the lyrics of the song long about the past, so did the music video which was purposely made in the film to capture the “old vibe” they were seeking to portray.

Carmen feels like this is the best song that she has made in her entire life. “It’s changed my life in a way because it’s opened me up to new audiences and I love seeing people react to it and relate to it.”

Earlier this year, Carmen released “Cafecito” which isn’t about your beloved morning beverage.

Most of us would read the title “Cafecito” and think it’s just an upbeat morning pick-me-up song, but it isn’t. “Cafecito” is a bittersweet single that Carmen says she wrote, “at 4 a.m. in the middle of a hurricane because I missed my grandparents so much, and I wanted to write about what it feels like to lose someone.”

While her abuelitos were the main inspiration behind the lyrics, the song does capture the feeling of loss that could apply to those of us losing a friendship, relationship, etc.

Before I even finish the question about her dream collaboration, Carmen excitedly yelled “Camilo!,” which also happens to be one of her favorite covers she’s posted on her YouTube channel.

Carmen’s dad chimed in the interview as well to plug in his favorite cover, which is “Graveyard” by Halsey.

We can only hope that Carmen DeLeon and Camilo collab happens and that this article serves as manifestation for it.

Good luck with everything, Carmen!

READ: Mon Laferte Talks Regional Mexican Album ‘Seis’ and Singing With Gloria Trevi

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