“You want milk? Low fat? Skimmed?” asked a man who identified himself only as Juan. “I can get you milk, but it is going to cost you!”

My arrival for a three month reporting stint in Caracas has schooled me in some simple rules of life in the Venezuelan capital. One is that supermarkets almost never have milk, so if people want something to add to their coffee they need to find the telephone number of someone like Juan, a fixer.

The next rule is that once they’ve heard the price, they’ll prefer black coffee. Juan was charging 150 bolivares a litre ($24 at the official rate of 6.3 per US dollar). That is roughly ten times the cost of pasteurised milk at the regulated price in state-run supermarkets. Read more

Venezuela, the birthplace of “21st century socialism”, is a land of anomalies. Here’s a great example: on Monday we learned that the capital of the socialist state, Caracas, is the most expensive city in the Americas, and the ninth priciest in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)Read more