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Venezuela’s government is now in the toilet-paper business

This time, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is rolling out a different solution to deal with his country’s toilet-paper shortage: He’s taking over.

Amid growing concerns that the country’s sanitary paper supply could run out, Venezuela ordered the temporary takeover last week of Manufacturas de Papel (better known as Manpa), a factory that produces toilet paper, according to Reuters. After more than 20 armed guards (Spanish) assumed control of the factory, the country’s vice president Jorge Arreaza made the takeover public. Its purpose, he said Saturday, is to review the factory’s “production, marketing and distribution (of) toilet paper.” Manpa is responsible for producing roughly 40% of Venezuela’s toilet paper, napkins, diapers, and female sanitary pads, all of which are currently in short supply.

This has been an ongoing problem. When Venezuela found itself 40 million rolls short on toilet paper earlier this year, the president Nicolas Maduro spent $79 million and warned the country to stop eating so much. “95% of people eat three or more meals a day,”  he said, eschewing blame for Venezuela’s toilet paper shortage back in May.

Toilet paper is hardly the only basic good vanishing from the country’s grocery store and supermarket shelves; sugar, flour, cornmeal, milk, butter, coffee and even toothpaste are among the 20 some odd items Venezuela is having trouble supplying to its people. Price controls, meant to stem the effects of inflation, which now hovers near 50% in the country, have backfired; lower prices have forced local producers to cut back on supply, leading to more shortages and further fueling inflation.

The temporary nationalization of the Manpa plant is being carried out by a state agency called Sundecop, which enforces price controls. “The action in the producer of toilet paper, sanitary napkins and disposable diapers responds to the state’s obligation to ensure a steady supply of basic goods for the people,” Sundecop said in a statement made over the weekend. The takeover is expected to last just over two weeks.

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