While Hugo Chavez might be dead, a number of his policies remain and it’s leading to large scale smuggling of subsidized goods to neighboring Columbia. President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela is looking into the introduction of mandatory fingerprinting in supermarkets to deter users from purchasing too much of a single item.
It’s believed that 40% the daily goods which remain subsidized in Venezuela make the trip to Columbia where they are sold at a massive markup.
Smuggling of subsidized goods rising
“The amount of staples smuggled to Colombia would be enough to load the shelves of our supermarkets,” Gen Efrain Velasco Lugo, a military spokesman, told El Universal newspaper earlier this week.
Not surprisingly, the plan is not going over well with critics calling it a violation of privacy and suggesting that it treats all Venezuelans like thieves and criminals.
Staples are at a premium and Venezuelans have taken to the streets in protest. The protests began in the western Venezuelan states of Tachira and Merida where the proximity to Columbia has left shelves ravaged by smugglers.
Venezuela: Troops to the border
Earlier this month, Venezuela deployed over 17,000 troops to the Colombian border in order to combat smuggling. Additionally, the border is now closed at night. The nightly closings will end in mid-September following a month. The two countries mutually agreed to the border closing citing mutual interests. Columbia loses out on taxes with the smuggled goods.
“The order has been given to the superintendency of prices to establish a biometric system in all supermarkets and commercial and distribution chain networks of the republic,” Mr Maduro said.
“The biometric system will be perfect,” he said, calling it an “anti-fraud blessing.”
How Venezuela expects to lay out the money required to pull off this system remains to be seen given the country’s economic struggles that include a massive deficit and inflation of about 60% annually.