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Churches feel pinch of Venezuela's shortages

CARACAS -- When it comes to Venezuela's growing scarcities, not even the Roman Catholic Church has received a dispensation.

Church officials say food shortages and foreign exchange restrictions are causing a lack of ingredients needed to celebrate Mass: altar wine as well as wheat to produce communion wafers.

They may have to ration the wine. "We only have enough for two months," said Archbishop Roberto Luckert, a spokesman for the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference. He said the country's only producer of church-standard communion wine recently said it can't guarantee production because it lacks some imported ingredients.

The church's concerns echo those of Venezuelans in general, who have struggled to find staples such as toilet paper, milk, sugar and cooking oil.

Economists say the shortages stem from the socialist government's controls on prices and on foreign currency, which makes it hard for producers to pay for things they need to import. President Nicolas Maduro blames the shortages on hoarding and says anti-government forces are trying to destabilize the country.

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