The arrival of ships from abroad means one thing for Elena: dollars. In Venezuela the green notes rule, said the 32-year-old sex worker. She travels to Puerto Cabello, in Venezuela’s coastline, every time a new ship arrives, particularly now that the Venezuelan economy has gone down; the Bolivar currency weakened and prices are high.
Sex workers increased economic empowerment by acting not only as sex workers but also as exchange currency bureau. They exchange money for sailor men and ship crew in a country that prostitution is legal and exchanging international currency is not. In the black market, dollars worth 11 times more if compared with the official government rates.
According to Elena, sex workers increased their income by selling sex in dollars. The economic situation of Venezuelan sex workers in the port is much better than other citizens, she says. Because 70% of the food is imported in Venezuela and lines in the supermarkets are huge, sex workers have been able to guarantee with the favourable rates adequate maintenance and housing.
Similarly to what happened in the USSR, said Professor Steve Hanke, sex workers are able to “defend” themselves from the inflation that hits the country’s economy. Those that are not able to earn in dollars have to reduce their living costs. Sex workers in Puerto Cabello earn 60 dollars per hour, and provide wide range of services for foreigners in dollars; yet they spend their money in clubs, bars, and taxis in Bolivars (the national currency). Giselle, another sex worker, affirmed that sex work is the best work possibility she had, as other jobs would not pay her food.
The economic situation of Venezuela is very specific in Latin America. After decades of Hugo Chavez governing the country, the recently elected (2013) Nicolás Maduro has been giving continuity to the politics of Chavez. Whereas the quality of life of Venezuelans citizens is increasingly reduced, sex workers have been able to overcome the crisis by diversifying their services and guaranteeing adequate income within their communities by using dollars as official currency.