Chaos broke out in supermarkets across Venezuela late last night as word spread that the Maduro regime was ordering a price reduction for basic food items and other goods. In total, 26 store chains were ordered by the regime to lower their prices last night, a move that affected 214 individual stores across the country.
The price reductions came via the Superintendencia Nacional para la Defensa de los Derechos Socioeconómicos [National Superintendency for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights] (SUNDDE), which is the regime body in charge of regulating prices in the country. SUNDDE president William Contreras foreshadowed the move earlier this week by saying that his office had received information that supermarkets around the country were marking up prices “for no reason”.
Last night’s reduction will see prices drop to where they were on December 15, which is the last time that the SUNDDE conducted a national price inspection. This fact suggests that only those products that experienced a price increase since December 15 have been affected by the price reduction.
Because Venezuela has the highest inflation rate on the planet, the price of food and other goods rise on a daily basis, sometimes by a substantial amount.
Contreras suggested that by continuing to raise prices in response to the collapse of the country’s economy, supermarkets and other stores in the country are engaging in criminal behaviour. He said:
We can’t continue to simply consider these acts to be speculation. These are criminal acts against the people. There is no reason for these prices changes to be taking place, and that is why we are taking these corrective measures.
The Maduro regime no longer releases official inflation figures, leaving calculating the numbers to independent economists. These estimates tend to vary, and place the 2017 inflation rate anywhere between 1,500% and 2,735%. The inflation crisis, which is caused by economic mismanagement, necessarily results in the price of goods and services to increase at accelerated rates.
The video below shows frenzied shoppers loading up on what appears to be meat items, which are ordinarily prohibitively expensive:
The video below also shows more hysteria at a supermarket. Towards the end of the video, a woman approaches the man filming and, in a haze of excitement, asks him where he found one of the products that he was carrying:
In what appears to be a related event, a group of desperate Venezuelans attempted to break into a supermarket by breaking through its front doors in Terrazas del Avila, Caracas:
In a Excelsior Gama supermarket in Parque del Este in Caracas, the SUNDDE only ordered price reductions for two products: detergent and crackers. Still, hundreds of people lined up for hours outside of the store hoping to take advantage of the deal. Below, a video showing the scene there along with my translation:
Rafael Hernandez: The few shoppers that are now leaving the Excelsior Gama supermarket in Parque del Este are carrying bags of detergent and crackers. It appears as if these were the only items that experienced a price reduction. These people have been here lining up since three, four in the morning, and just now at 1:00 PM are they being allowed to enter. The National Guard is here. SUNDDE officials were here earlier correcting the prices, but the only items that we can see from the few shoppers that are coming out are detergent and crackers.
The video below shows the procedure for entering the supermarket in Parque del Este. The supermarket’s protective metal gate is raised only slightly, apparently in an attempt to reduce the likelihood that the crowd will attempt to storm in at once:
Speaking on the price reductions, a man named Edgar Romero spoke to Reuters about the pain of knowing that ransacking store shelves today likely means that they will continue to be empty tomorrow. Romero said:
This doesn’t help us. There won’t be anything later. And if there’s nothing later, that means we’ll only eat today. There won’t be anything more. But we have to eat.
The Economist Pegs “Worst Economy in 2018” to Venezuela
The Economist published an article yesterday in which it provided an overview for expected economic performance across the world for 2018.
According to the article, the world’s economy will expand by approximately 2.7% this year, with individual countries performing better or worse than the average. The Indian economy, for example, is expected to grow by an impressive 7.7% this year, while that of Brunei is likely to see a jump of just 0.3%.
In the case of Venezuela, the article attributes to the country the worst economic performance of the year, with an expected gross domestic product collapse of 11.9%. The forecast gives Venezuela the distinction of having the worst expected economic performance for 2018, followed by hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and Equatorial Guinea, with a 8.0% and 3.7% reduction in their economies, respectively.
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