CARACAS – The first Iranian supermarket in Venezuela has been generating buzz. Sold to us as a “take that, America” joint venture between both “rebellious” nations, it’s further proof of the growing Iranian influence in what’s left of this country.
Venezuela is – as if we didn’t have enough on our plate – becoming a gateway for the Islamic Republic to the region, courtesy of a regime desperate to do away with our resources and sovereignty so long as they get to rule over our ruined nation.
Megasis (a name that, according to the people behind it, honors the fallen during the Iran-Iraq conflict that occurred in the ‘80s) opened its doors on Thursday, July 30th, in Venezuela. The face behind this venture is Issa Rezaei, a man who has ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its missile program — I suppose that having the military control food distribution is something both regimes have in common.
The narratives by the regime’s media machine, of course, have trumpeted this “triumph” as much as possible, despite its reach hindered by no longer being able to latch onto DirecTV’s infrastructure.
The creation of a “New World,” the cooperation between Iran and Venezuela, breaking the U.S. sanctions, and the White House’s “supremacy” are some of the components of the narrative expunged by our flamboyant vice president during the opening of this store.
The supermarket is located far from the more impoverished parts of the capital – in Terrazas del Avila, an area that, while belonging to the State of Miranda, is part of the Metropolitan Region of Caracas.
Fancy, clean, with high tech dystopian checkpoints for Chinese Coronavirus prevention (which don’t seem to prevent their employees from getting infected), and, most importantly, stocked, it’s almost too good to be true. The products display their price tags not in bolivars, but on the “Great Satan’s” greenbacks, the same U.S. dollars that were once illegal for us to hold and trade – for which we had to use clever wordsmithing, such as “verdes” (greens), “lechugas” (lettuces), and even “Trumps” – that are now keeping whatever is left of our economy afloat.
While the prices themselves are expressed in foreign currency, they do seem to be within range of other supermarkets in the country: $5.92 for Lacteos Los Andes’ powdered milk (a company that was seized by the regime in 2008), $2.53 for a liter of corn oil, or $2.32 for a can of Iranian tomato paste. Some of the Iranian offerings are even cheaper than our Venezuelan counterparts — but in a country where the minimum wage isn’t even $4 per month anymore, the products are out of reach for the majority.
It’s not like you can simply walk in and purchase stuff on a whim either, thanks to the regime’s authoritarian Chinese coronavirus measures. The governor of the State of Miranda, Hector Rodriguez, recently passed a new ruling that limits citizens from purchasing essential goods, only letting them do purchases on specific days of the week determined by the last number of our ID card — a nightmare from the worst years of the socialist collapse of Venezuela that has once again resurfaced.
It’s worth mentioning that the locale that this Iranian supermarket is occupying has a picturesque story of its own, tied to the ill-fated exploits of Venezuela’s socialism.
For some time, the facilities used to belong to the Colombian “Éxito” supermarket chains, and for a time, all was good. In the early days of 2010 (and at the apex of his socialist dream), the now Supreme and Eternal Commander of the Bolivarian Revolution Hugo Chávez decided to expropriate and seize Éxito’s entire chain and infrastructure to bring forth a Corporation of Socialist Markets (COMERSO), of which “Abastos Bicentenario” went onto occupying most of Éxito’s former locations.
I think you can guess what happened next — it got run to the ground, trashed, obliterated. Shortages, long lines (some even overnight), misery, and all the wondrous experiences of grocery shopping in socialism. The last time I went to one of these was to accompany my mother. The experience was — depressing, to say the least.
The failure of Abastos Bicentenario was palliated by the Maduro regime through a new business: Tiendas CLAP — a tendril in the corrupt machinery of which Alex Saab (a man in the process of being extradited to the United States who some of the regime’s diehard shills have tried to paint as a modern version of Oskar Schindler) is part of. The CLAP is Venezuela’s socialist emergency aid kit system, in which true believers in the Bolivarian Revolution are rewarded with insect-infested rice, “yellow” milk, and rotten fish flesh.
With that also run to the ground, it’s time for some Iranian “capitalism” to come to the rescue.
For a regime that expropriated companies, seized land, and persecuted private entrepreneurship in the name of Socialist “food sovereignty” to give it all away to Iran is not just baffling, but a testament to the failure of their misbegotten ideology.
The Iranian influence in our country grows – Iranian oil, military, and now food flood the country. This brand new supermarket has already been denounced as a front for money laundering — which wouldn’t be too far-fetched if true, given the rise of bodegones (stores that sell imported goods without issue), despite the regime’s U.S.-sanction related narratives stating otherwise. I personally don’t see myself visiting these facilities anytime soon – not only are they a bit far from where I live (made worse by the limited transportation options due to coronavirus’ quarantine and the severe gasoline shortages), but I would only be able to purchase anything on Mondays and Saturdays.
No halal meat for me, I guess. Time to stick to my regular off-market provider.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.