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    Rationing in Venezuela: A ‘Déjà vu’ for Cubans / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya
    Posted on March 11, 2015

    14ymedio, Havana, Miriam Celaya, 11 March 2015 — Commissar Nicolas
    Maduro, president of Venezuela to the misfortune of its people and –
    let’s admit it – also for the prolongation of our own misfortune, has
    just announced recently the installation of 20,000 digital fingerprint
    readers in state food markets and in several private sector retail
    chains that, according to him, adopted the initiative “voluntarily”
    after meetings held with the government.

    Let’s draw a merciful veil over the aforementioned secret meetings and
    imagine the atmosphere that must have reigned there in the midst of the
    “permanent economic war” that Venezuela suffers, the successive “soft
    coups” that have been provoked almost bi-weekly in that South American
    nation – according to the president’s denunciations – and the growing
    repression of opposition factions and civil society that demonstrate
    publicly and openly against the government. It is not very hard to guess
    what caused the “voluntariness” of these businessmen, who are
    definitively representatives of the “oligarchies” constantly defamed in
    official speeches and press.

    But returning to the topic of Comrade-President Maduro’s above-mentioned
    fingerprint readers, his lofty purpose is, while guaranteeing the
    feeding of the people, to counter smuggling, or more exactly, “the
    smugglers” since smuggling can exist without socialism but socialism has
    never existed without smuggling.

    This way, the fingerprint readers – which will limit the purchase of
    foods and other products in high demand whose supply has been greatly
    depressed causing lines, hoarding and disturbances in the stores – now
    are added to the prior rationing through magnetic cards established in
    2014. It is clear that the Bolshevik Nicolas has not the least ability
    to overcome his country’s economic crisis, but at least in contemporary
    times the new technologies permit digital management of the misery. It
    is without doubt a real contribution of Socialism in the 21st Century
    which the late Hugo predicted in his glory days, before being planted in
    the Mountain Barracks and turned into a tiny little bird dispensing bad

    Decades later, the Venezuelan government model – if it is possible to
    call it that – is dragging the country in a sort of reverse race through
    experiences similar to those that we Cubans have gone through under

    Those of us born before or in the years immediately following the
    catastrophic accident of January 1959 remember clearly some of the
    bureaucratic variants created to manage poverty, an ill that the older
    ones among us believed had been almost overcome with the economic boom
    experienced in the 50’s.

    This administrative strategy, typical of war and famine economies, was
    first established for food products, and a little later, with the
    decline of Cuban industries due to the extreme nationalization of the
    economy, it was rapidly extended to other consumer products, such as
    clothing, footwear and other goods. Then came the industrial products
    book, popularly known as the store booklet, which currently functions
    only for the acquisition of school uniforms.

    This version of control not only indicated the limits of access to the
    said articles, but it also reached the point of establishing shopping
    schedules for groups, with subsections inspired in the strongly sexist
    standards of the Revolution, which assigned two days a week – Monday and
    Thursday – on which only women workers could shop; an enviable privilege
    in the widespread poverty that, moreover, took for granted in a
    Revolutionary way that trifles like shopping were not worthy of men.

    Decades of shortages, manipulated in detail by those in power, sowed in
    ordinary Cubans an extreme dependence on the State – an always
    insufficient provider but the only one possible – and a whole culture of
    systematized poverty that includes a peculiar glossary with phrases that
    we drag around even today in popular speech: “what they are offering” in
    this or that establishment, “what’s assigned to you,” “what’s expiring,”
    “plan jaba**,” “chicken diet***” and many similar ones that reflect the
    national acceptance of misery as the common destiny, something that one
    day – hopefully not too distant – should embarrass us.

    Rationing in Cuba has been quite an institution that has played a role
    in the socio-economic realm and also in the political, functioning more
    as an instrument of subjection of the people by the Government than as a
    true guarantor of a just distribution of consumer goods, established
    with a vulgar egalitarianism that annulled individual initiative and
    turned the citizen into dough.

    The ration book has constituted a mechanism of social control, even to
    the point that currently the Government has not been able to eliminate
    it, on pain of absolutely abandoning the most disadvantaged social
    sectors, especially the elderly without filial protection and the many
    humble homes which receive no remittances from abroad nor have any other
    hard currency income. In spite of that, the food products rationed and
    subsidized through the book – that artifact that constitutes a complete
    leftover of the Cold War – are today fewer than a dozen, and they barely
    cover precariously some of the most pressing food needs while the rate
    of inflation keeps increasing and wages hardly have even symbolic value.

    That is why, when I now witness the Venezuelan rationing process, when I
    hear the openness with which Comrade-President Nicolas Maduro disguises
    in modernity the cataclysm of misery that looms for his people, I cannot
    escape a kind of jolt, like déjà vu. We Cubans already traveled that
    path, we walked half a century over its thorns and we are convinced that
    it only leads to disaster. We have painfully and abundantly proven that
    misery is the only thing that, divided among many, touches more.

    Personally, I hope that the poor Venezuelans, who lately pursue their
    food anxiously and stand in long lines at stores with empty shelves,
    manage in time to avoid that serious confusion that sometimes leads
    people to interpret as justice that which is the manipulation and burial
    of freedoms.

    Translator’s notes:
    * Nicolas Maduro says that Hugo Chavez appears to him as a tiny little
    bird, and dispenses advice. In this video, otherwise in Spanish, he
    imitates the sounds the bird makes flying around his head and then
    imitates the bird whistling a message.
    ** “Plan jaba” is literally “sack plan” and can mean one of two things:
    (A) you leave your bag and come back and pick it up at a convenient time
    so you don’t have to wait in line all day, which is allowed for some
    working people; or (B) you get a “special bag of extras” because of age,
    illness or pregnancy, and again, you just pick it up.
    *** “Chicken diet” means that you get extra protein because of age,
    illness or pregnancy.

    Translated by MLK

    Source: Rationing in Venezuela: A ‘Déjà vu’ for Cubans / 14ymedio,
    Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba –

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