Venezuela’s latest shortage: breast implants
Venezuela’s chronic shortages have begun to encroach on a cultural cornerstone: the boob job. Beauty-obsessed Venezuelans face a scarcity of brand-name breast implants, and women are so desperate that they and their doctors are turning to devices that are the wrong size or made in China, with less rigorous quality standards.
Venezuelans once had easy access to implants approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But doctors say the implants are now all but impossible to find because restrictive currency controls have deprived local businesses of the cash to import foreign goods. It may not be the gravest shortfall facing the socialist South American country, but surgeons say the issue cuts to the psyche of the image-conscious Venezuelan woman.
“The women are complaining,” said Dr. Ramon Zapata, president of the Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Venezuelan women are very concerned with their self-esteem.”
Venezuela is thought to have one of the world’s highest plastic surgery rates, and the breast implant is the central procedure. Doctors performed 38,500 implants there last year, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. That makes it No. 7 in the world for the procedure, while in total population it ranks at 46th in the world with nearly 29 million people.
Until recently, women could enter raffles for implants held by pharmacies, workplaces and even campaigning politicians. During recent anti-government street demonstrations, the occasional sign about the rising price of breast implants was mixed in with those railing against food shortages and currency devaluation.
“It’s a culture of ‘I want to be more beautiful than you.’ That’s why even people who live in the slums get implants,” Dr. Daniel Slobodianik said, fiddling with an FDA-approved pouch of saline solution no longer on sale locally.
Slobodianik used to perform several implants a week, but now does closer to two a month. He says women call every day asking if he has the implant size they’re looking for. When they can’t find it, they choose a second-best option, almost always a size up.
Breast implant patients wait at the metropolitan outpatient
surgery center in Caracas, Venezuela.