[News] Venezuela - Food Card to Combat Scarcity Unveiled

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 19 18:10:18 EDT 2014


  Food Card to Combat Scarcity Unveiled

<http://venezuelanalysis.com/printmail/10502>http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/10502
<http://venezuelanalysis.com/print/10502>

By ZOE CLARA DUTKA

Santa Elena de Uairén, 19th March 2014 (venezuelanalysis.com)- Workers 
marched to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Misión Alimentación on 
Sunday, Venezuela's vastly accessible nutritional program, launched by 
Hugo Chavez in 2003.

During that time the program created more than 22,000 distribution 
points ranging from supermarket-sized stores to neighborhood bodegas; 
selling nutritional staples at prices subsidized by up to 80%.

The government has long cited the mission as part of efforts to reduce 
malnutrition.

According to Venezuela's National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), child 
malnutrition in Venezuela was found to have been reduced by 58.5%, from 
7.7% to 3.2% in 1990 and 2010, respectively.

"Compared to the 4th Republic [the regime that preceded Chavez], there 
is plenty of access to nutrition. Now you don't see hunger in the 
streets like before," said Belkys Mogollón, resident of La Guaira, as 
she stood amongst the congregation of people celebrating in front of the 
presidential palace, Miraflores.

President Nicolas Maduro met the workers outside of Miraflores, 
outlining in his speech a development of the program that is meant to 
combat scarcity.

Scarcity has been pointed to as a source for recent unrest, despite a 
number of distributing vehicles from Misión Alimentación being burned by 
student protestors in the states of Carabobo, Táchira and Zulia in the 
past few weeks.

According to the government, one reason for scarcity is that private 
companies hoard food in hopes to then sell them for higher prices as 
demand rises. In the first half of 2013, while opposition candidate 
Henrique Capriles was campaigning against Nicolas Maduro for presidency, 
at least 40,000 tons of food was found hidden in different locations 
across the country. At the time Maduro regularly referred to the 
hoarding as "economic warfare."

Another important reason is just how attractive their subsidized prices 
are for smugglers looking to make a profit. A one kilogram bag of sugar 
sold through any of Misión Alimentación's distributors can cost between 
2 and 6 bolivars. In Colombia, a bag of Venezuelan sugar can sell for as 
much as 150 bolivars.

A bag of powdered milk, yet another staple for Venezeulan households, 
costs around 30 bolivars when sold at its regulated price. In Brazil, 
its worth 600 bolivars. The price difference makes Venezuela a popular 
shopping destination for Brazilians and Colombians alike, who, often use 
the black market rate.

In his address on Sunday, Maduro cited that of the subsidized products 
sold by the two main distributing organizers, Mercal and Pdval, more 
than 40% leave the country.

He went on to describe the Food Card, or Ensured Supply Card. The free, 
non-mandatory bank card will give the user certain benefits, and is 
primarily meant to combat contraband and price speculation.

According to Maduro, the card represents a marriage between the Mision 
Alimentación and the Fair Price Law, enabled late last year amid rampant 
speculation when certain chain stores were found to have marked prices 
up as much as 1,200%. The card is expected to bring greater efficiency 
to both initiatives.

Upon mention of the card, members of the opposition were up in arms via 
Twitter, calling it a "Cuban rationing card" and implying that the 
biometrics fingerprint census required to receive the card is an 
imposition on consumer freedom and privacy.

Roberto León Parilli, president of the Consumer Alliance ANAUCO, said 
"by connecting Mercal, Pdval and Bicentenario [three distributors of 
subsidized foodstuffs], the control the government employs upon people 
will only worsen."

But private supermarkets will also enter the network; and though the 
official details have not yet been released, all signs point to the card 
working similarly to a loyalty card. Special deals and benefits will be 
awarded to members, while nonmembers will still be able to make 
purchases in the same places.

Details as to what the requirements will be to get a card, and exactly 
how the system will work are to be released this week.

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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