|This one is almost everyday to enter Caracas "EXITO"|
near Plaza Venezuela. I have driven past it three times
and seen a variation of it with my own eyes. Once
probably worse than this picture.
But this year it has become calamitous and bad planning in December cannot by any means account for the current disaster. What is happening now is strictly a direct consequences of the regime's disastrous policies as local producers could not even plan for bad inventories: they simply did what they could and hoped for the best. Now long lines at food stores are headlines world wide, even editorials.
I am not going to the whys here, just tell you a few stories as a witness, even though I consider that I am myself privileged by not eating the kind of food that the people in line want and because , well, my life is too complicated these days to inquire further. And yet you do not need to investigate, it jumps to your eyes by merely driving around.
When in Caracas I live in the Eastern districts. Until now in general we were spared long lines. This is over. Just drive around on your normal errands and you will see long lines at most grocery stores, in particular in the morning when deliveries arrive. The lines even blocked me this Saturday for the second time ever to enter into my usual family grocery store that I have patronized for 40 years! Diapers had arrived....
It is a different crowd
When you stop at your usual joints you see your usual crowd. When there is a change you notice it. Well, this is happening. It is crystal clear that the bulk of the lines that form in my area come from people that do not live in the area, people that actually live in lower class districts of Petare, for example. How come? Is Mercal and PDVAL failing in the areas that they are supposed to serve? (2) Why do these people need to trek so far to get ONLY the basic staples? You can look into their carts: there is at most 1 or 2 items, in the allotted amounts by the store to each individual. My cart has the usual items as well as the carts of the locals. You see it, it is not racism, or class division or prejudice. It is an easily observable fact.
Because what is sought by these people are the price controlled items. If, like me, you buy stuff not under price control you can still make a weekly grocery shop of sorts, incomplete but enough to manage. In other words, in case you still do not get it, the poor MUST go to fancier grocery stores to seek stuff that is not consumed as much there but that they need for their daily intake and cannot find in their own neighborhood. Unless they go through scalpers.
My cleaning lady tells me her method for the Saturday shopping. Her husband who works on week ends starts to stand in line at the local "Bicentenario" at 5 AM and gets a number (they have stopped marking people because people got fed up and thus the Nazional Guard hands out tickets now). She makes it to the store at 7 wen her hubby needs to leave for work. Then she takes his number and waits an hour more until the store opens and she is allowed in to get whatever it is that the state has been able to find to put up for sale.
It has been months that she has not been able to get all that she requires for her week.
This happened to me this afternoon.
I was at work and decided to run to the grocery store close by to get some stuff to make a soup. So it is around 3:30 and I am with my cart at the veggies section. All is normal. Suddenly big bags of corn flour arrive. It is the one that is price controlled, the "normal" Harina P.A.N.. The one that "el pueblo" wants because there are other presentations like the one I buy which has extra fiber, but costs almost twice as much (though still dirt cheap, a dime or 3 bucks depending on your preferred exchange rate).
Now, even in these times of scarcity IF you are in the store and even IF a particular scarce item is arriving, you will get some because the store sells only a few pounds to each customer. There is plenty of time.
Well, a food fight started and the store personnel had to struggle to bring order and force people to stand in line. Of course, the gates of the store were locked fast to limit the number of people that get in, something that now happens EVERY TIME corn flour, laundry detergent, cooking oil, etc, arrive.
I was in shock and moved away to the refrigerated section not for fear but for shame of witnessing such a sorry scene. Yet, when I was done and I saw the line normal I just went there and got my 8 pounds of corn flour; for my cleaning lady, by the way, that I gave her as a gift later on. I had already in my cart 4 pounds of the fiber enriched flour.
Thus there was ENOUGH for the customers attending at arrival, but people are now panicking at a possible lack of food.
But this was not all. During these brief minutes, and in spite of controlled access, the store managed to fill up and long lines were at the cashiers and most of the line were people carrying ONLY their 8 ponds. And many, well, that did not look like regulars. So, for an errand that would have taken me less than a half hour, I had to spend more than an hour until I could get back to the office. Also I saw plenty of people from my office and others who were there, having been warned of the arrival and abandoning their desks on the spot to run and get some. How can we forbid them to do so?
If this happens to me in "protected" and allegedly "civilized" areas, I shiver at the idea of what is going on in Catia or Petare.........
1) The first time I did a report on food shortages was on January 14 2006. 9 years ago! Since then I did several picture posts of different aspects of food shortages. You may visit them if you want and realize that those shortages were actually not as bad as the ones we are going through this time around.
2) Mercal and PDVAL are the subsidized food distribution stores that Chavez set for electoral purposes and that paid off handsomely.