Empty Shelves: Venezuela's Economic Shortage Explained


Uno de los tantos memes que circulan en las redes sociales sobre la escasez en Venezuela.

One of the many memes circulating on social networks about the shortages in Venezuela.

Despite the promise of a new year, Venezuelans haven't begun 2015 in the happiest of ways, however, enduring one of the worst economic shortages in recent memory. Long lines for basic products, like food staples, shampoo, diapers, and so on, have become a feature of everyday life. These problems started in the regions, but the crisis has now reached Caracas, where food has always been abundant in the past.

As Venezuelans’ patience wears thin, argument and fights in the streets are becoming more common.

Images uploaded to social networks in January 2015 revealed empty shelves and long queues during, until supermarket chains suddenly started loading their shelves with identical products (to maintain the appearance of full stocks), while also prohibiting the use of cameras on their premises. Meanwhile, government spokespeople warned of provocateurs seeking to spread chaos, recognized as “daddy's little children.”

With or without photos, the shortages seem to be here to stay:

Without production or stability or currencies … there can be only shortages.

The government has attributed the shortage to the “economic war waged by the country's right-wing forces using hoarding, speculation, and smuggling.” Officials have pledged to defend the public from a war waged on Venezuela by big business and the American empire. Some in the government want to install fingerprint scanners in supermarkets as a solution.

Our @NicolasMaduro announces the installation of 20K fingerprint scanners in supermarkets, to continue fighting the economic war.

A fingerprint scanner in the midst of a severe economic shortage is the same as a ration card, whether or not it's designed for that.

Supermarkets across the country has instituted a series of measures designed to manage the allocation of available goods during the shortage, including fingerprint scanners, selling only according to the last number of one's identity card. or requesting the birth certificate to mothers to buy diapers for their children. Venezuelans now find themselves asking endlessly, “What did you get?” “What do you need?”

Economist José Guerra writes:

With a monthly inflation rate of about 11 percent in January, the annualized rate is 81 percent. For that reason @BCV_ORG_VE hides the figures

A massive black market has emerged during the crisis to accommodate people without the time or fearlessness to brave the long liens. Known as “bachaqueros,” these people buy scare products at regulated prices and resell them at 5-10 times the cost, turning enormous profits, and making it impossible for many ordinary people to buy ordinary household goods.


via @_vivianalizet: Good day, Please where can I get diapers because the bachaqueros ask 550 and 600 bolivars per package. Opportunists.

When the minimum wage in Venezuela fell to 5,622.48 bolivars (about $885) per month, it became easier for the poor to queue for a few hours and earn 3,000 bolivars ($472) in one day, selling their place in line.

The business of queues. A place in a queue to buy appliances in Daka costs 3,000 bolivars.

But the underlying problem, according to economists, it is not the smuggler or the businessman but the exchange rate policy that holds back a wider supply of cash. The shortage is noticeable in different sectors of the economy. Recently, auto parts and food industries reported that they've not received any dollars this year, which they need to purchase to import any raw materials, slowing production.

EDO cartoon: you left us a great void.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.