Battling food shortages, the government is rolling out a new ID 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.
President Nicólas Maduro’s administration says the cards to track families’ purchases will foil people who stock up on groceries at subsidized prices and then illegally resell them for several times the amount. Critics say it’s another sign the oil-rich Venezuelan economy is headed toward Cuba-style dysfunction.
Registration begins at more than 100 government-run supermarkets across the country Tuesday, and 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,” said Juan Rodríguez, who waited two hours to enter the government-run Abastos Bicentenario supermarket near downtown Caracas on Monday, and then waited another three hours to check out.
Rigid currency controls and a shortage of U.S. dollars make it increasingly difficult for Venezuelans to find imported basic products like milk, flour, toilet paper and cooking oil. Price controls don’t help either, with producers complaining that some goods are priced too low to make a profit and justify production. . .