MARACAIBO, Venezuela—Amid worsening shortages, Venezuela recently reached a milestone of dubious distinction: It has joined the ranks of North Korea and Cuba in rationing food for its citizens.
On a recent, muggy morning, Maria Varge stood in line outside a Centro 99 grocery store, ready to scour the shelves for scarce items like cooking oil and milk. But before entering, Ms. Varge had to scan her fingerprint to ensure she wouldn’t buy more than her share
Despite its technological twist on the old allotment booklet, Venezuela’s new program of rationing is infuriating consumers who say it creates tiresome waits, doesn’t relieve shortages and overlooks the far-reaching economic overhauls the country needs to resolve the problem. - “These machines make longer lines,” said Ms. Varge, 50, as she was jostled by people in line, “but you get inside, and they still don’t have what you want.”
The government rolled out the system last month across 36 supermarkets in this western border state, Zulia, whose capital is Maracaibo, with a recent expansion into a select number of state-owned markets in Caracas.
Venezuela is turning to rationing because of shortages caused by what economists call a toxic mix of unproductive local industry—hamstrung by nationalizations and government intervention
—and a complex currency regime that is unable to provide the dollars importers need to pay for basics.
The tumbling price for Venezuela’s oil, which has fallen by nearly $15 a barrel since September to $77.65 on Friday, is likely to mean even more scarcity
in the cash-strapped country, economists say.