El Nacional published an article today in which it claims that the Comites Locales de Abastecimiento y Produccion [Local Supply and Production Committees] (CLAP) appear to be leveraging their power over poor Venezuelans for the benefit of the PSUV. According to the newspaper, any individual heard criticizing the PSUV or any of its policies while in line to receive assistance could be banned from receiving food from the distribution program for three months.
Maduro created the CLAP system back in April of this year in a bid to combat chronic food shortages in the country. The way the system is supposed to work is that instead of having Venezuelans travel to supermarkets to buy food, CLAP workers deliver shopping bags full of basic necessities directly to communities where they can be purchased by residents there at subsidized prices.
The CLAP can also deliver its bags of food to state-owned supermarkets given their central location in some communities.
El Nacional claims that at a meeting of a CLAP group on August 6 in the Catia neighbourhood of Caracas, a communal council member representative told residents that they would no longer be allowed to line up for food on property belonging to state-owned supermarkets. The reason for the ban came from a desire to stop residents from complaining about the government on government property.
According to El Nacional, the representative said that anyone caught complaining about the government while waiting to receive a CLAP bag would be banned from the program for three months, and “if the situation continues”, the whole neighbourhood would be punished. The newspaper claims that the CLAP representative said:
I understand if you don’t like the government. I know who supports the opposition, and they’re not denied access to [the CLAP food bags]. I respect them. But still – how could you speak ill of the government on MERCAL [a state-owned supermarket chain] property?
If this happens, that person will be suspended for three months. If the situation continues like that, however, the whole communal council will be punished.
The Venezuelan government claims that there are currently 14,000 CLAP groups working to deliver food to residents throughout the country.
Discrimination, Arbitrariness Rife in CLAP System
El Nacional also outlined some complaints from Venezuelans who claim to have personally experienced discrimination or arbitrary punishments through the CLAP system.
Marcela Maspero, a union coordinator who lives in the Parque Central neighbourhood of Caracas, told El Nacional that her local CLAP had threatened to stop servicing her area of residents there complained about the government. Maspero also said:
In the Parque Central neighbourhood, the heads of the [CLAP] give bags to people who show documents issued by the PSUV [like a PSUV membership card]. And, so that people won’t see the line ups, the distribution takes places in the basements of buildings.
Roger Palacio, a political activist, told the newspaper that his neighbourhood in the outskirts of Cumana, Sucre state has not received CLAP bags in five months because residents there complained that the bags were missing items and were exuberantly expensive.
Allup: Dialogue Dependent on Recall
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup spoke during a television interview today on the lingering possibility that the PSUV and the opposition may resolve their differences via some kind of dialogue. Allup said that given the government’s complete disregard for law and the constitution, a dialogue between the two sides was simply impossible.
Allup said that the government needs to ensure that there is are “minimum conditions” for a dialogue to take place, something he argues it currently is not doing. Allup said that one such condition would be for the PSUV to allow the recall referendum against Maduro to take place this year.
On the overall state of Venezuelan democracy, Allup said:
We don’t have a democratic system as per a functional understanding.
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