Venezuelans Are Marked With Numbers To Stand In Line At Government Supermarkets

Linette Lopez

It’s hard to get a sense of what a food shortage is like unless you’ve lived through one, but this tidbit from Venezuela serves as a chilling illustration.

The lines to get into government supermarkets are so long that people mark their arms with their place in line. It’s not a permanent tattoo — just a pen — but the point is to make sure that the long lines stay as orderly as possible.

It looks like this:


According to a source familiar with what’s going on, this number-scribbling takes place outside large cities like Caracas, and it doesn’t happen in private supermarkets. However, private supermarkets can set a limit to the number of items a person can buy. For example: You can only pick up 4 liters of milk, 2 liters of oil, 2 kilos of sugar etc.

And that’s if the market even has those items.

People also have numbers on their ID cards, which decide which days they can even get in line to shop at supermarkets like San Cristobal’s Bicentenario, according to AFP.

Protests taking place all over the country aren’t helping either. Demonstrators have been building barricades, which are slowing the flow of goods from place to place.

From AFP:

Armando Mirando, vice president of the Tachira State Bakeries Association, told AFP that San Cristobal could run out of bread by Tuesday…

“We already had shortages before and now nothing is arriving,” Mirando said after addressing a “peace conference” organized by the government to end the protests but shunned by the opposition as a sham.

Most shops and restaurants are closed in the city of 260,000 people.

On Friday, Maduro got on TV and said that smuggling food into the country is more profitable than selling cocaine.

If you had to stand in this line (in San Crisobal) you would understand why.

Food line in Venezuela San CristobalREUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

People line up to buy food at a supermarket in San Cristobal, about 410 miles (660 km) southwest of Caracas, February 27, 2014. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis called on Wednesday for an end to violence in Venezuela that has killed at least 13 people and urged politicians to take the lead in calming the nation’s worst unrest in a decade.

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