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Venezuela’s bizarre response to McDonald’s running out of french fries

Venezuela’s leaders aren’t taking the ongoing McDonald’s french fry shortage in their country too well.

Publicly sponsored news outlets, government officials, and even the country’s president, Nicolás Maduro, have all responded to McDonald’s unthinkable french fry shortage, which spans all 100 outlets in the country, by publicly criticizing the chain, and its french fries.

One of the loudest responses came from Telesur, a state-sponsored news outlet, which wasted no time in getting to what it views as the heart of the issue. The outlet published a story headlined, “McDonald’s joins economic war against Venezuela,” not-so-subtly suggesting that the lack of fried potato sticks is somehow tied to a broader war being waged by the United States and its capitalistic ways. McDonald’s said there’s been a shortage since it had trouble importing potatoes. But Telesur says that’s all a lie.

“The U.S. multinational fast-food chain is claiming it cannot get potatoes in Venezuela, despite the fact other restaurants do not have the same problem,” the article begins.

Articles have also surfaced on Apporea, a pro-government website, about separate, isolated food safety scares at McDonald’s in other parts of the world (in this case, Japan and China). The article, titled “McDonald’s apologizes after a tooth and plastic are found in its food,” is one of the few pieces published this week by the outlet that is not about a domestic matter.

Public figures, including Venezuela’s president, have also taken to Twitter. This week, sandwiched between tweets about domestic issues and an international investment deal with China, President Maduro retweeted a tweet by news outlet Russia Today, which translates roughly to “Japan: Human tooth found in french fries at a McDonald’s.”

Maduro also retweeted a tweet by Roberto Hernández, Venezuela’s Minister for Labor and Social Security, which calls McDonald’s french fries cancerous.

And another government official, Dante Rivas, who overseas the doling out of public permits, sarcastically bemoaned the fry shortage, and then applauded the fact that people will have to eat yuca fries instead. “Now we will eat fried yuca, 100% made in Venezuela.”

Why the the government reaction has been so severe is unclear. Part of the reason for the swift, if strange, response may come from the possibility that Venezuelans might blame their government for McDonald’s french fry shortage. The Venezuelan people, after all, have endured scores of shortages in recent years, including a national toilet paper shortage.

McDonald’s did blame the french fry shortage on the fact that it was having trouble importing potatoes, but attributed the difficulty to a U.S. labor dispute. But who knows? Maybe Venezuela’s government only read the headlines.

© 2015, The Washington Post

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