A sex worker talks to a man outside a hotel in the Geylang red-light district in Singapore, Feb. 8, 2013.
It is illegal to trade dollars in the streets of Venezuela, so those who have them are able to make a killing in the underground market, where dollars are worth 11 times the official rate.
That, of course, has produced unintended results and consequences for society. One of those, Bloomberg's Anatoly Kurmanaev reports, is that prostitutes and other people with access to dollars are doubling as currency traders.
Prostitutes get their greenbacks from sailors carrying them into the country.
A typical stint with a dollar-paying foreigner would earn a prostitute about 6,800 bolivars in fees and currency exchange arbitrage in the black market. The same service paid in bolivars ... would earn them 3,000 bolivars.
“We can make more in two hours here than working in a shop in a month,” said a prostitute who calls herself Giselle, as she sipped a 12-year-old whiskey in Club 440 striptease joint.
The prostitutes consider this the only way to get not just decent whiskey but also everyday products like sugar, flour, and other staples. The last time Venezuela published a scarcity index, back in January, one in four basic products was unavailable. People form epic lines to get into grocery stores, only to find their shelves complete empty.
Experts are afraid that the underground market that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro calls "perverse" is turning the country into a place of dollar haves and have-nots.
Meanwhile, protests continue in the streets, and Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the opposition, rots in jail waiting for his trial for treason to begin in August.
"I am in jail because I have denounced the Venezuelan government for being corrupt, inefficient, repressive and anti-democratic," he wrote from his cell in April. "I am in jail for calling on the Venezuelan people to go to the streets and exercise our historical and constitutional right to protest until we achieve a political change that guarantees peace, well-being, and progress for the Venezuelan people."
Prostitution, for the record, is legal in Venezuela.
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