News / Americas

Shortage-weary Venezuelans Scoff at Fingerprinting Plan

People hold their groceries as they line up to pay the cashier at a supermarket in Caracas, Veneuela, Aug. 21, 2014.
People hold their groceries as they line up to pay the cashier at a supermarket in Caracas, Veneuela, Aug. 21, 2014.
Reuters

A government plan to combat Venezuela's food shortages by fingerprinting shoppers in grocery stores has sparked a backlash ranging from violent street protests to social media campaigns ridiculing the idea.

Shoppers have for more than a year struggled to find basic goods including cooking oil, powdered milk and corn flour as well as detergent, shampoo and diapers.

Apart from a short supply of dollars for imports, the shortages have been blamed on heavy subsidies that allow shoppers to stock up on staples and resell them in neighboring Colombia or on the local black market.

President Nicolas Maduro says the biometric system, to be introduced this year, will allow authorities to weed out smugglers, often seen in lines buying conspicuous amounts of goods that are in short supply.

"It's absurd. How does a fingerprinting machine help you? It's only more regulation," said Jose Briceno, a pastry chef who was once a fervent supporter of late socialist President Hugo Chavez but says his handpicked successor, Maduro, should resign.

"I've reached my limit," said Briceno, 39, adding that he has to go shopping nearly every day to find what he needs for his kitchen.

Demonstrators opposed to the fingerprinting scheme clashed this week with police in San Cristobal, a city near the border with Colombia where product shortages are among the worst in Venezuela.

Some Caracas residents banged pots and pans on Thursday night in a traditional display of anger although the issue looks unlikely to spark the kind of massive demonstrations that rocked Venezuela for three months this year.

"I wanted to strangle Maduro," Esperanza Diaz, a 54-year-old retired government worker, said of the plan.

"We can't keep being abused," she added, speaking in front of half-empty shelves as she stocked up on rare sugar at a sprawling government-run Bicentenario supermarket in central Caracas.

'Scan This'

Government supporters argue that while stores in this oil-rich South American nation used to be better supplied, the poor could ill-afford to stock up on many consumer items anyway.

They blast what they call a pampered, out-of-touch elite for seeking to stir up trouble.

"I agree with the fingerprinting system because I see how smugglers are bleeding the country dry," said Ninoska Mazza, 40, a real estate agent waiting behind other shoppers at a Bicentenario meat counter.

Venezuelans used to dodging socialist regulations are already joking that "rent-a-fingers" will soon emerge to help duck around the system.

A Twitter campaign shows a hand flashing the middle finger with the hashtag #ScanThisFingerprint.

The government has in recent days scaled back the fingerprinting plan, saying it will be voluntary and only required for 23 basic goods. Some Venezuelans are skeptical the plan will even be implemented but others see a dark motive behind it.

"They want to control us," said Monica Betancour, 43, a dentist looking for turkey at a supermarket in posh eastern Caracas.

"Whenever they announce a protest against this, I'll be there," she said.   

You May Like

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop illegal money flow from continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Kerry Discusses Trade, Terror Fight With Mexican, Canadian Counterparts

Topics include battle against Islamic State, responsibility for clean-energy future
More

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation
More

Aviation Leaders to Seek Mandate on Safety Standards

Standards for global plane tracking, cooperation on risks of flying over conflict zones will dominate a meeting set for Feb. 2-5 in Montreal
More

Dissident Venezuelan General Resurfaces

Antonio Rivero has resurfaced after nearly a year in hiding, appearing at United Nations in New York
More

US Seeks to Break Up Drug Ring

Alleged drug ring accused of smuggling cocaine and laundering money from Venezuela to the United States
More

Senators Introduce Bill to End Ban on Americans Traveling to Cuba

Some Cuban American lawmakers strongly oppose Obama administration’s sudden shift in US policy towards Cuba, others say it is past time to end embargo
More