The Reality of Venezuela’s Rationing in a Hashtag

AP Photo/Fernando Llano
AP Photo/Fernando Llano

The hashtag #AnaquelesVaciosEnVenezuela, which translates as empty shelves in Venezuela, was created to spread the word about what is happening in the beleaguered socialist nation.

Inflation is officially at 65% in Venezuela, but the real rate, based on the black market exchange rate, may be even higher. Chronic shortages of food and basic necessities like toilet paper and diapers have become commonplace. This store posted a list of all the things it didn’t have, starting with toilet paper.

Last year President Maduro instituted a system of rationing at grocery stores which uses fingerprint scanners to insure people buy items like soap only once a week. But as the hashtag suggests, things have continued to get worse despite the rationing.

Venezuelans are not allowed to take photos or videos of the empty shelves inside the stores, so some take pictures of the enormous lines outside the grocery stores instead.

Even in the rain:

The Associated Press published raw video of some of the long lines for groceries:

The lines were so bad that people were camping out overnight so they could avoid waiting in the sun. This tweet says people had been in line since 3AM to get their line numbers.

But after some fights broke out, the government banned lining up overnight. The government’s Food Minister went on television to show off a fully stocked grocery store. He was there when a delivery of frozen chickens was put out for sale. The result was a scramble for the birds that undercut the image the Food Minister was hoping to portray. Once that happened, someone with a walkie-talkie moved into position to block the camera.

Last month Venezuela slipped into another recession. Analysts say that without a devaluation of the country’s currency Venezuela will see triple-digit inflation this year. President Maduro has been promising to make such a change but has already delayed the expected announcement three times in the last month.

Maduro claims there is a “bourgeois insurrection against the model of social justice” being waged against his government. His response has been to visit 10 energy producing countries this month–among them Russia and China–seeking loans that will help him survive until his oil revenues recover. He is gambling that frustration over the terrible state of the economy won’t lead to social unrest before that happens. As a bus driver ferrying Maduro supporters tells Bloomberg News, “This can’t go on forever.”