Originally published April 27 2014
Venezuela tracks citizens' food purchases to criminalize 'hoarding' of food during severe shortage
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Despite a dearth of news coverage detailing the failing nature of Venezuela's experimentation with abject socialism, there is nonetheless a trickle of reporting that provides the trained eye a glimpse of just how bad life is getting in this formerly thriving oil-rich South American nation.
The Associated Press (AP) reported recently that food shortages have gotten so bad in Venezuela that the Madura government was forced to introduce a new identification system "that is either a grocery loyalty card with extra muscle or the most dramatic step yet toward rationing in Venezuela, depending on who is describing it."
The administration of President Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded committed Marxist President Hugo Chavez after he died of pelvic cancer complications (which some Venezuelans have blamed on the U.S.), says the cards, which will track the holders' purchases, aim to foil those who stock up on groceries at state-taxpayer-subsidized prices and then resell them illegally for several times the amount.
Critics, however, note that the plan is one of desperation and is masking the destruction of the country's economy under Cuban-style, top-down government redistributionist management. You be the judge.
The AP reported:
Registration began [April 1] at more than 100 government-run supermarkets across the country. Working-class shoppers who sometimes endure hours-long lines at government-run stores to buy groceries at steeply reduced prices are welcoming the plan.
"The rich people have things all hoarded away, and they pull the strings," Juan Rodriguez, who waited two hours to enter the government-run Abastos Bicentenario supermarket near downtown Caracas, and then another three hours to check out, told the AP.
The tight control of currency combined with a shortage of American dollars has had a devastating effect on Venezuelans; many have found it tough to find imported staples and basic products like toilet paper, cooking oil, flour and milk. And price controls, the hallmark of a Marxist economy, aren't helping, because, as is always the case, the government is mandating prices for goods that are less than what those same goods cost to make; without a profit, companies cannot justify manufacturing them.
As of the first of the year, more than one-quarter of basic staples have been out of stock in Venezuelan stores, the AP reported, citing the central bank's scarcity index. And regular shortages were among problems cited by Maduro's opponents who have been protesting them -- and him -- since mid-February.
Workers at the checkouts of the Abastos Bicentenario market were taking down customers' cellphone numbers following implementation of the ID cards, to make sure that they could not return to the store for eight days. Also, shoppers said employees banned purchases by minors, to stop parents from using their kids to engage in hoarding, described by the government as "nervous buying."
Rodriguez told the AP he supports both steps.
"People who go shopping every day hurt us all," he said, a declaration that drew approving nods from the friends he made while standing in line for hours. It never occurred to him, apparently, that the same government's policies of centralized Marxist management of the economy put him and his newfound friends in the very position they are in.
In another sign of Venezuela's increasingly socialistic bent, Maduro has militarized his discourse against political opponents in the country; he has accused them of waging "economic war," though they -- not being in power -- have not had the authority to make sweeping economic changes like he and Chavez before him.
In order to comply with the new ID program, patrons must register with their fingerprints; the new cards will be tied to a computer system that monitors the holder's purchases.
Days after the program was initiated, Food Minister Felix Osorio said that, so far, things were going smoothly (maybe the Venezuelans should have built the federal Obamacare exchange). He added that the system flags anyone it detects of engaging in "suspicious" purchasing patterns. It also bars people from buying the same goods every day.
Then again, Osorio insists that the cards will be voluntary -- though in a closed economic system like the model being used in Venezuela, "voluntary" can be a relative term.
Some Venezuelans are claiming that the government's ID cards are nothing more than food rationing, which makes this part of the AP report noteworthy, given the similarity of the two countries' economies:
After five decades of rationing basic goods for Cubans, President Raul Castro's communist government is phasing out subsidized foodstuffs as it opens the island's economy to private enterprise. Cubans most dependent on the rationed goods say that in recent years their monthly quotas provided only enough food for a couple of weeks.
More from Natural News on Venezuela's declining economy and failing state: NaturalNews.com.
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