What? Another country has run out of fries?
Forget the French fries. How about a side of yuca with that Big Mac?
Venezuela's more than 100 McDonald's franchises have run out of potatoes. Now they are serving alternatives. Like deep-fried arepa flatbreads or yuca. That's a starchy staple of traditional South American cooking.
McDonald's is blaming a contract dispute with American West Coast dock workers. The company says the dispute has halted the export of frozen fries to Venezuela. It also caused several days of French fry rationing in Japan last month. But neighboring countries to Venezuela are not suffering the same scarcity of fries.
Sonia Ruseler is a spokeswoman for the company that runs McDonald's restaurants in Latin America. She declined to say why nearby countries still have their McDonald's fries.
Many Venezuelans assume their government is to blame. They are accustomed to shortages of their favorite foods. And they are equally in the habit of grumbling about the government.
"It's because of the situation here. It's a total debacle," said Maria Guerreiro. With her family, she left a McDonald's in Caracas. She had just found out the store was only serving fries made of yuca. The food is also known as cassava. Her daughter won't eat the super-starchy root, she said. They'd come for the sole purpose of treating the two-year-old to a Happy Meal. Caracas is the capital of Venezuela.
McDonald's has likely been grappling with shortages in Venezuela for a while. That's according to Alixa Sharkey. She is a researcher with the market research company Euromonitor International.
"This situation probably has little to do with the U.S. port dispute. (It) is mostly the result of Venezuela's very difficult economic situation," she said.
The Venezuelan government says it "has nothing at all to do" with the French fries shortage.
At the Caracas McDonald's, a man was wearing an "employee of the month" cap. He explained to customers that instead of French fries, the store was offering yuca fries. Or salads.
Some customers sampled their pale yuca fries tentatively. No one chose the salad.
Critical thinking challenge: Fries are made from potatoes, which grow on farms. So why are dock workers who load ships causing problems for French fry-loving Venezuelans?