Venezuela's 'socialist' toys

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The Venezuelan government has invested $1.4 million in toys to sell them at a 70% discount at their big ?Socialist Toy Fair?. BBC Mundo's Anahí Aradas checked out the merchandise in Caracas, Marco Werman talks with her.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. A lot of what happens in Venezuela under President Hugo Chavez is described as socialist. Chavez himself says he's leading a socialist revolution to benefit the people. His critics of course say Chavez is more like a socialist tyrant. Politics aside we were still surprised to hear that socialist toy fair opened in Venezuela this week. The BBC's Anahi Aradas went to the fair to take a peek. She joins us from downtown Caracas. Anahi tell us first off what the Venezuelan government means by socialist toy fair. They're not selling toy hammers and sickles right?

ANAHI ARADAS: Okay it's no such thing as socialist toys. They are toys as sold in a socialist fair. A socialist fair is any kind of special shop that the Venezuelan government sets to sell food, to sell different kind of objects. It's not the first time that the Venezuelan government does that in Christmas. Last year it was about all the necessary ingredients to do Christmas dishes. And this year has been toys mainly because of [INDISCERNIBLE] so high, especially high because of inflation as well. That's why there were so many people in these two fairs set in Caracas.

WERMAN: Right I mean people are buying these toys at cost, 70% off the retail prices. How did this come about? I mean here in the US it's regular Americans who donate toys for Christmas to disadvantaged children. How can the Venezuelan government have no problem investing one and a half million dollars in toys?

ARADAS: That's quite strange but it's true that Venezuela has a lot of deals with China. They can go over the big companies in Venezuela that are trying to sell toys to inflated rates.

WERMAN: Anahi you may not know this but here in the United States we've got this shopping day, the day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday when stores sell items below regular price and people start their Christmas shopping you know as early as midnight. Now I'm wondering if this socialist toy fair, once it started, I mean was it also kind of like a rush on Black Friday here? Did people have to stand in line for hours or even days?

ARADAS: Oh yes. That day when I was there on Wednesday there were 5000 people according to the government in this fair. When I got there there were dads, moms, grandpas, all waiting in a long cue in the center of Caracas.

WERMAN: How long were they waiting in line?

ARADAS: How long? I asked the first people in the cue and they were waiting since 3:00 in the morning. So they slept there.

WERMAN: And what time did you happen to speak with them?

ARADAS: I spoke with them about midday and they had been there for nine, 10 hours waiting. And some of them had been there also the day before.

WERMAN: Is that line still there today?

ARADAS: Yes, yes. The fair will be open until the 15th of December.

WERMAN: Have they run out of toys yet?

ARADAS: Yes mainly of Barbies.
WERMAN: Mainly Barbies.

ARADAS: Because when I went there, no no Barbies.

WERMAN: I mean it seems hard to argue with the idea of making toys more readily available to underprivileged kids this time of year regardless of where the toys come from. Are there any critics though in Venezuela of this program?

ARADAS: Critics are saying why a socialist country is selling American toys or Chinese toys instead of Venezuelan toys.

WERMAN: Give me a couple of examples of like national products. What the most popular toy made in Venezuela?

ARADAS: There was an idea to sell Bolivar dolls.

WERMAN: Like Simon Bolivar dolls?

ARADAS: Simon Bolivar dolls. Yes.

WERMAN: That sounds cool.

ARADAS: Yeah but I didn't see any.

WERMAN: Anahi Aradas with the BBC in Caracas, Venezuela. Thank you very much.

ARADAS: You're welcome.