It was nicknamed the “Fingerprints for Food” program, but it represented a dire new twist in the ongoing struggle for the socialist Venezuelan government to provide basic nourishment and products for its citizens.
As reported by the Miami Herald in May 2014, President Nicolas Maduro ordered the implementation of biometrics to allow the government to track what customers of state-owned grocery stores were purchasing and, perhaps as importantly, how much.
Maduro, the paper reported, said that the measure was necessary to prevent hoarding, and to help keep price-controlled food from being resold at a profit. Even then, food was increasingly in short supply, and that was before global oil prices collapsed due to a glut; Venezuela receives 95 percent of its revenues from oil.
In order to convince hungry Venezuelans to voluntarily register for the program, Food Minister Felix Osorio promised that anyone who signed up and give the government their fingerprints, would be eligible for discounts and prizes.
Military necessary to guard stores
The scheme was not made mandatory when it was first implemented, but critics warned that it would become just another way for the state to keep tabs on its people, and could even serve as a precursor to rationing.
The Herald reported further:
The initiative, called the Superior System for Secure Supplies, comes amid a raft of economic measures rolled out amid anti-government protests that have dragged on for almost two months leaving at least 39 dead on both sides of the political divide.
The program came amid some of the worst inflation suffered by Venezuela at the time (it has only gotten worse since).
“This is a government that attacks the people not only with weapons but with the worst tax: inflation,” Luis Florido, a national officer of the Voluntad Popular opposition party, told the Herald at the time. “The government is creating economic [chaos] for the people of Venezuela.”
In January 2015, NaturalNews reported that food shortages had become so commonplace in Venezuela, that consumers were forced to wait for hours in food lines, with many opting to sleep in line so as not to lose their place.
In addition, Maduro, by then, was also forced to deploy the Venezuelan army to keep peace and ensure social stability at state-run stores.
Bloomberg News also reported:
Inside a Plan Suarez grocery store … in eastern Caracas, shelves were mostly bare. Customers struggled and fought for items at times, with many trying to skip lines. The most sought-after products included detergent, with customers waiting in line for two to three hours to buy a maximum of two bags. A security guard asked that photos of empty shelves not be taken.” [Emphasis added]
By August of last year things had not improved much. As The Wall Street Journal noted, violence permeated the country, punctuated by the torching of a National Guard command post that was set aflame by a “mob infuriated by worsening food shortages.” After they burned the command post they rammed trucks into the smoldering ruins, reducing it to a pile of rubble.
‘It’s a national crisis’
That incident was just one of many throughout the country, mostly brought on by chronic shortages of basic foods, goods and products.
“What’s certain is that we are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot,” Maria Palma, a 55-year-old grandmother, told the WSJ. On that day she had awakened at 3 a.m. to go stand in a food store line, which she finally abandoned around noon – empty-handed.
One non-profit group recorded more than 500 instances of violent protests throughout Venezuela, along with 56 instances of looting, and scores of attempted lootings of grocery stores, pharmacies and warehouses – all in the first half of 2015. Even delivery trucks were targeted.
“It’s a national crisis,” Marco Ponce, head of the Venezuela Observatory of Social Conflict, the non-profit group that did the study, told the WSJ.
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