The video below, uploaded to YouTube two days ago, shows the severity of the scarcity crisis the country is going through. It was allegedly taken on Friday, August 22, in the town of Bocono, Trujillo state. The video description reads:
On Friday August 22 2014 at approximately 12:30 PM, a truck carrying La Campiña powdered milk arrives at a market known to Boconeses as the Bodega de Rucho, located on the Gran Colombia avenue between Colon and Armisitico streets. The people’s reaction was truly incredible. They were running por-doquier [I don’t know what this means], women with children in their arms, the elderly, youths and adults. It was really incredible, because in Bocono people have always behaved in a civil and orderly fashion. You could see the anxiety and disappointment in people’s faces thanks to the extreme situation Venezuela finds itself in.
My translation of the video follows below:
Narrator: Bocono, Trujillo state. This is how people line up. Look. The milk has arrived in Bocono! The milk has arrived. Here comes the truck. This is Bocono. This is how it is, the milk just got here.
[1:07] Woman in Blue: … that’s right, don’t let them cut ahead of you, you’re the first one in line.
[1;13] Man in White: You’re not letting the cars through!
[1:42] Narrator: What do you think about this, sir? Have you ever seen something like this before?
Elderly Man in Red/Blue: Never in my life.
[1:58] Narrator: What do you think about this line up, ma’am? Have you ever seen something like this before in Bocono?
Elderly Woman in Green: Bad. I’ve never seen something like this, but I have about [unintelligible]. This is shameful. It’s shameful for someone my age to have to run around for a jar of milk. So what’s going on? The last two administrations, the last one and the one we have now, are the ones responsible for this shameful situation. It’s hurting children.
Narrator: What do you think is the answer to this?
Elderly Woman in Green: Well, umm, they should be smarter, more production.
[2:38] Narrator: Ma’am, what do you think about this line up? What do you think about this situation?
Elderly Woman in Maroon: Well, what can we do? We have to line up.
Narrator: What’s the answer to this?
Elderly Woman in Maroon: Ah, well. Who knows?
[2:57] Narrator: Sir, what do you think about this line up and what is the answer to this problem?
Man in Green: No, no. I don’t want… I don’t want to give my opinion.
[3:05] Narrator: Ma’am, do you think it’s right that you have to line up like this? What do you think is the answer to this problem?
Woman in White: I… I… no, I don’t know. [If people don’t line up] they don’t eat.
[3:21] Narrator: What do you think about this line up, ma’am?
Woman in Purple: Well, there it is. You have to put up with it because what else can you do? You have to do it because you need to. It’s not because line ups are good.
Narrator: Do you think that this is justified in a country with so much money? What do you think is the solution?
Woman in Purple: No. We’re doing really badly. Badly, badly, badly.
[3:54] Narrator: This is Bocono, people. Not Caracas.
[4:11] Woman Off-Camera: Don’t let people cut in front of you!
This video is an excellent example of why the biometric rationing system is not going to be the miracle cure for the scarcity problem the government would have Venezuelans believe.
For the government-controlled rationing system to solve the scarcity crisis, businesses have to be properly stocked. According to the government, the scarcity crisis is caused mostly because smugglers are simply buying all the product off the shelves once it hits stores. In other words, products are produced/imported in close to sufficient amounts; they make it onto store shelves in close to sufficient amounts, but once there, are quickly snatched by the first smuggler that walks into the store.
If this was the case, then the biometric rationing system might have a shot at working. If you can stop the smugglers from buying all the toilet paper, then there would be more toilet paper to go around.
Unfortunately, smugglers are not the primary cause of scarcity in Venezuela. In Venezuela, scarcity is not created at the store-shelf level. In Venezuela, scarcity is caused by a combination of at least these three points:
- National production is unable to meet demand.
- Venezuela is unable to import food in sufficient quantities quickly enough to fill the production gap.
- Products are being taken off the supply chain by smugglers and corrupt officials long before they reach store shelves.
If the scarcity crisis was limited to the food industry, I might be more inclined to believe the government’s version of events. However, the fact that the medical industry and the automotive industry are suffering from severe scarcity as well leads me to believe that food is scarce not because smugglers are emptying shelves into their shopping carts, but because points 1 through 3 above are draining the life out of every sector of the Venezuelan economy.
If product isn’t making it into the supermarkets, whether your weekly allowance of milk is 1 litre or 100 litres is inconsequential. Time will tell. The end of the year is just around the corner.
Below, an undated picture showing a popular Venezuelan treat, Pirulin, on a store shelf. The sign reads: “3 Pirulin per person. Thank you”: