Venezuela: Shortages and hyper inflation… How it looks on Main Street

news-desk[1]A. Venezuela Enforces Fingerprint Registry to Buy Groceries: What to Do Before Rationing Starts in America 2 April 2014, SHTFplan.com, by Daisy Luther, The Organic Prepper, http://www.theorganicprepper.ca/venezuela-enforces-fingerprint-registry-to-buy-groceries-what-to-do-before-rationing-starts-in-america-04022014

Pasted from: http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/venezuela-enforces-fingerprint-registry-to-buy-groceries-what-to-do-before-rationing-starts-in-america_04022014

Editor’s Note: In recent weeks the country of Venezuela has implemented everything from price controls to rationing in an effort to control the hyperinflation that has gripped the nation. All attempts at controlling demand and ‘hoarding’ have thus far failed, prompting government officials to issue directives requiring biometric verification for the purchase of foodstuffs. What’s happening in Venezuela is a clear example of how government first causes the problem, often leading to panic, and then points the blame at everyone but themselves. Officials claim that unscrupulous merchants (who have been forced to sell goods at prices lower than they have acquired them) and the hoarding of food by individuals is to blame for the shortages.

The solution, of course, is more government, and in this case that means registration of fingerprints and other personal data in exchange for permission to purchase food. Be assured that the same plans are in place right here in the USA. In fact, we already have an electronic mechanism of exchange in the form of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Should the worst happen and the US dollar crashes at some point in the future, those who failed to prepare (or, hoard as the government would suggest) are destined to forced registrations at their local post office or other government entity. Daisy Luther of The Organic Prepper explains what’s happening right now in Venezuela, how a similar situation could unfold in the USA, and what you can do to prepare in advance.

For those looking to implement a frugal and highly effective strategy in advance of food shortages or currency crisis we suggest taking a look at Daisy’s book The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months.

Venesuela1(Pictured: Amateur photo: Venezuelans line up for miles in an effort to acquire food during hyperinflationary food shortages – March 2014)

.Venezuela Enforces Fingerprint Registry to Buy Groceries: What to Do Before Rationing Starts in America
By Daisy Luther

What if you were forced to “register” in order to buy groceries?  And what if, through that registration, the food you bought could be tracked and quantities could be limited?

That’s exactly the plan in Venezuela right now.  The AP reports that in an effort to crack down on “hoarding” that ID cards will be issued to families.  These will have to be presented before foodstuffs can be purchased.

President Nicolas Maduro’s administration says the cards to track families’ purchases will foil people who stock up on groceries at subsidized prices and then illegally resell them for several times the amount…

Registration began Tuesday at more than 100 government-run supermarkets across the country. Working-class shoppers who sometimes endure hours-long lines at government-run stores to buy groceries at steeply reduced prices are welcoming the plan.

“The rich people have things all hoarded away, and they pull the strings,” said Juan Rodriguez, who waited two hours to enter the government-run Abastos Bicentenario supermarket near downtown Caracas on Monday, and then waited another three hours to check out.

Checkout workers at Abastos Bicentenario were taking down customers’ cellphone numbers Monday, to ensure they couldn’t return for eight days. Shoppers said employees also banned purchases by minors, to stop parents from using their children to engage in hoarding, which the government calls “nervous buying.”

Rodriguez supports both measures.

“People who go shopping every day hurt us all,” he said, drawing approving nods from the friends he made over the course of his afternoon slowly snaking through the aisles with his oversized cart.

Reflecting Maduro’s increasingly militarized discourse against opponents he accuses of waging “economic war,” the government is calling the new program the “system of secure supply.”

Patrons will register with their fingerprints, and the new ID card will be linked to a computer system that monitors purchases. On Tuesday, Food Minister Felix Osorio said the process was off to a smooth start. He says the system will sound an alarm when it detects suspicious purchasing patterns, barring people from buying the same goods every day. But he also says the cards will be voluntary, with incentives like discounts and entry into raffles for homes and cars.

Expressionless men with rifles patrolled the warehouse-size supermarket Monday as shoppers hurried by, focusing on grabbing meat and pantry items before they were gone.

Last year in Venezuela, it became a crime to “hoard” food, and the country’s Attorney General called upon prosecutors to crack down on “hoarders” by imprisoning them for the “crime”.

Some people may read this and think to themselves, “Why on earth do I care about what happens in Venezuela?” You’d better care, because this is our future.

Already the Obama administration has moved the pieces into place on the board to be able to appropriate supplies from anyone, at any time.  Mac Slavo of SHTFplan warns: It should be clear from the laws that are already in effect that the government has given itself a legal pretext for confiscating anything they so choose in the midst of an emergency.

Should an emergency befall the United States, the military, national guard, and local police operating under orders from the Department of Homeland Security will have carte blanche to do as they please.

In a widespread emergency where supply lines have been threatened and millions of Americans are without essential resources because they failed to prepare, the government will swoop in an attempt to take complete control.

They will enter our homes and search them without a warrant. They will confiscate contraband. And they will take any ‘excessive resources’ that you may have accumulated. This includes food, toiletries, precious metals and anything else emergency planners and officials deem to be a scarce material.

Just think how much easier it would be to do so if every purchase you make is tracked and documented for future reference.

How Much of a Footprint Are You Leaving?
Now, think about those “loyalty cards” that every grocery store in North America promotes when you go through the checkout. Have you noticed how much more those are being pushed lately? Could there be a nefarious purpose to that?  I doubt the person at the cash register thinks twice about it – if these actually are data collection tools, it is something put in place by people far higher up the food chain (pun intended) than the staff of your local supermarket.

I strongly recommend you think twice about collecting “points” – the discounts may not be worth it if it means that your stock-up purchases are in some database, easily accessible to the NSA.  If you feel it is imperative to have one of those cards, consider using a pseudonym and false address.  You really don’t want to provide an inventory of your stockpile to the government. Some cards, like the one from Target, for example, even take it a step further and link to your credit card or debit account.  I can’t even wrap my brain around giving out that type of information to the person who rings up my paper towels and garbage bags.

To take this even further, if you haven’t been convinced yet that you need to begin producing your own food by gardening and raising micro-livestock, this should solidify the importance of not being totally dependent on “the system” for what you eat. Looking at the drought conditions across America’s farmland, is it a stretch of the imagination to think we could soon be facing rationing like that which is currently happening in Venezuela?  As the middle class gasps its last breath here in America, we may soon be faced with a situation where only the wealthy can afford to avoid rationing.  By becoming independent from the purveyors of food, you can assure that your family will not go hungry at the whims of a government who really doesn’t care.

Plan of Action
Here are a few things that you can do to pre-empt feeling the effects of a system like the one in Venezuela before such a change occurs on our own soil. Start now to leave less of a footprint for the government to follow.

  1. Plant a garden.
  2. Grow food indoors in sunny windows.
  3. Consider an aquaponics set-up in a spare room.
  4. Raise chickens and meat rabbits.
  5. Stock up NOW on long-term staples like grains and beans, before limits are instituted.
  6. Buy heirloom seeds – lots and lots of seeds.
  7. Practice careful OPSEC (OPerational SECurity) when making large purchases.
  8. Store long term food supplies in more than one location. That way if you lose some of your supplies to thugs (government or other varieties), you still have supplies to fall back on.
  9. Learn to preserve food.
  10. Stock up of preservation supplies like lids, jars, etc.
  11. Do NOT use so-called “loyalty cards” or memberships to make large purchases.
  12. When ordering large quantities of supplies, consider having them mailed to some place other than your home.
  13. Use cash or prepaid VISA cards purchased with cash to make large purchases.
  14. Don’t tell others about your supplies and purchases.
  15. Teach your children not to discuss things like food pantries and preparedness.
  16. Don’t store your supplies out in the open for anyone who comes into your home to see. Stash your 5 gallon pails away in closets, under beds, or in the basement.
  17. Disengage from the system by purchasing from small local farmers.
  18. Use the barter system whenever possible.  When money was tight and I lived in a place where I couldn’t grow much food, I worked on a farm harvesting vegetables in exchange for produce that I could preserve for my family.
  19. Change the way you eat – go with a local, in-season menu that is far more difficult to track than grocery-store purchased items.
  20. Learn to forage. Even in the city, you might be surprised at how many things can be found growing in your own back yard or falling off of the trees in a local park.  My children and I picked up one small bag of walnuts a day at a little park down the street one year, resulting in almost 15 pounds of shelled nuts by the time we were through.

Whatever your plan, don’t delay. We need only to read the many articles predicting a food shortage this year due to poor weather conditions to see the writing on the wall. You must become responsible for your family’s sustenance if you don’t want to suffer at the hands of those in power. I have no intention of standing in line for hours with my “ID card”, only to be allowed to purchase a small amount of highly inflated food.

[Please feel free to share any information from this article in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to The Organic Prepper and the following bio.

Daisy Luther is the author of The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

  .

B. Price controls and scarcity force Venezuelans to turn to the black market for milk and toilet paper
16 Apr 2015, by Girish Gupta in Caracas
Pasted from: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/apr/16/venezuela-economy-black-market-milk-and-toilet-paper

From those struggling to meet inflated prices for everyday goods, to lawyers turned pasta smugglers, the street economy flourishes under President Maduro

Venesuela vendorWith supermarket shelves empty, buhoneros (street peddlers) hustling everything from coffee to
shampoo are an increasingly common sight across Venezuela’s slums.  Photograph: Girish Gupta

In Petare, a giant slum overlooking Caracas from the east, hustlers known as buhoneros sell their goods at a busy intersection. “I’ve got milk, toilet paper, coffee, soap…” said 30-year-old Carmen Rodríguez, pointing to her wares by the side of a road busy with honking motorbikes, cars and buses. “Of course they cost more than the government say they should. We have to queue up to get them or buy them from someone who has done. We’re helping people get the basics.”

Yet, many of the poor simply can’t afford Rodríguez’s basics. In a raw and arguably necessary display of capitalism, she sells them for far more than the government’s legally required “fair prices”. It is ironically because of those government-imposed fair prices that the goods often aren’t available at supermarkets at fair prices as it’s simply not profitable to import them. This is thanks to economic policies dating back more than a decade.

Rodríguez sells each of her products for around 100 bolívares. At the black market currency exchange rate, that’s just 30 pence or so. But at that same exchange rate, the minimum wage in Venezuela is around £15 a month.

Venesuela2 queueA queue for a supermarket in Caracas. Photograph: Girish Gupta

“I can’t live like this, earning the minimum wage. It’s not enough at all,” said Araceli Belaez, 40, lining up for groceries at a supermarket in the Caracas slum of Catia.

Johan Elizandre is a fruit-seller in 23 de enero, a slum on the other side of Caracas. It overlooks the presidential palace and its walls are adorned with murals of leftist heroes such as Che Guevara, Karl Marx and former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. “A kilo of meat costs me 600 bolívares” said Elizandre, who earns 7,000 bolívares a month, around £20 when measured at the black market exchange rate – far more than the minimum wage. “I have sons, aged five and seven. I’d rather give them the food and not eat so much myself.”

Of course my goods cost more than the government say they should. We’re helping people get the basics

The scenes at Petare’s intersection, 23 de enero’s streets and Catia’s supermarkets are manifestations of an economy in tatters: one in which people buy milk, toilet paper and shampoo at inflated prices because supermarkets, with long queues outside, are near empty; in which engineers and lawyers smuggle pasta and petrol across borders to earn many times more than they would carrying out their profession; and in which surgeons complain that people are dying on the operating table because they cannot import medicines and equipment.

Venesuela3 queueThere will not be much left in the supermarket for people at the back of this queue Photograph: Girish Gupta

President Nicolás Maduro’s approval ratings are currently in the mid-20s. Annual inflation is at nearly 70% – which doesn’t include goods prices with the hefty premiums charged by the buhoneros like Rodríguez. The currency has fallen some 30% against the US dollar this year on the black market. And the murder rate is one of the world’s worst.

In 2003, Maduro’s predecessor Chávez enacted strict currency controls, pegging the bolívar to the US dollar. The aim was to reduce inflation and curb capital flight though neither has been achieved. Price controls, currency controls and the lack of dollars the government provides mean that importers no longer have the incentive to bring in goods. A thousand bolívares would have bought £30 on the black market when Maduro was elected to power in March 2013; it now buys less than £3. In the meantime, prices have risen rapidly while wages have not kept up.

On the country’s border with Colombia at San Antonio, engineer Jesús Arias, 33, has given up on his profession and smuggles petrol across the border. One of the country’s most costly price controls means that filling an entire tank costs just a couple of cents, converted at black market rates. Over the border, petrol sells for hundreds of times more. “Here petrol is practically a free gift,” Arias said. “A litre of mineral water costs more than a litre of gas.”

Children walk across the bridge to Colombia with Coca-Cola bottles filled with petrolThe subsidy costs the government around $12bn (£8bn) a year and Maduro is very clear that it needs to end – though that would be politically disastrous. Arias fills his 50-litre tank for just a few pence; a few hundred metres across the bridge in Cúcuta, Colombia, he can sell that for around £15. “Doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers we’re all doing it,” he said. “Here on the border, I can earn in three or four days what I earn as a professional in a month.” Children walk across the bridge with Coca-Cola bottles filled with petrol.

Maduro blames the problems on an “economic war” being waged against his government, with help from Washington. He blames smugglers, hoarders and street vendors for causing the problems rather than being a consequence of them.

Venesuela cash- barterPeople are leaving their jobs as they can make more as a black-market vendor. Photograph: Girish Gupta

Last year, the government tried to ban websites which publish the black market exchange rate, leading one blogger to liken the manoeuvre to banning the sale of thermometers to crack down on cold weather.

Yet, the black market, while imperfect, is offering an escape valve for the economy, a means for the poor by whatever means to obtain goods they would otherwise have to do without. “Repressing the black market rate, smuggling or trading is going to deteriorate the economic picture even further,” said Alberto Ramos, a senior analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York. “It will lead to even high inflation and higher levels of goods’ scarcity. The unofficial foreign exchange market and smuggling are to a large extent economic escape valves.”

(News & Editorial/ Venezuela: shortages and hyper inflation. How it looks on Main Street)

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