Shortage-weary Venezuelans scoff at fingerprinting plan for food sales
By Alexandra Ulmer
CARACAS Aug 29 (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. Continuación...