Venezuela’s government continues to battle a food hoarding and smuggling epidemic. It accuses food smugglers of causing national food shortages in the country. The government states that food smugglers hoard goods to resell for profit and smuggle such items into Venezuela’s neighboring countries.
Due to currency controls and a lack of U.S. dollars, Venezuela has found it to be increasingly difficult to import foreign food products from other countries. One of the most popular countries for food smuggling is Colombia, which borders Venezuela. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos have both acknowledged the problem.
Earlier this month, Maduro stated that smuggling seizure efforts in Colombia have recovered close to $400 million U.S. dollars worth of goods. Due to these smuggling incidents, the Venezuelan government intends to introduce a biometric tracking system that will limit citizens’ food purchases via a fingerprint scanning.
A military spokesperson for the government told El Universal newspaper that the quantity of goods smuggled to Colombia “would be enough to load the shelves of our supermarkets.”
This July, the government seized more than 11 tons worth of fish, chicken and beef.
Last month, Venezuela began to close its border to Colombia at night and deploy thousands of troops in an effort to stop the smuggling in Venezuela from taking place. However, opposition to the plan suggests that the policy will treat Venezuelan citizens as criminals and even breach individual privacy. Many have suggested that the policy leans toward food rationing.
Some watchdog groups have even predicted that those without the biometric cards may not be able to shop at state supermarkets. The Venezuelan government believes up to 40 percent of items purchased within the country are smuggled out of the country. This includes medicines and basic foodstuff.
Even though the government has stated that those who make use of the biometric cards may receive various discounts and other benefits, those against the plan suggest otherwise. Nevertheless, the country has seen inflation rates top 60 percent this year due to food smuggling, which indicates that something must be done.
– Ethan Safran