Mery Mogollon and Chris Kraul
Los Angeles Times
April 1, 2014

Grappling with scarcities of sugar, milk, cornmeal and other basic foods, the Venezuelan government Tuesday unveiled a new electronic identification system for shoppers that critics say is a modern version of a ration card. President Nicolas Maduro described it as a means of “safeguarding food sovereignty.”

The system will employ electronic fingerprint IDs similar to those used to identify Venezuelan voters to register shoppers who purchase goods at the state-run grocery chains Mercal, Bicentenario and PDVAL. Announcing the system last month, Maduro said it will assure food supplies for 84% of Venezuelans. He did not speak to the impact on the other 16%.

The purpose of the system, Maduro said, is to guard against the purchase of large quantities of food at cut-rate government prices to be marked up and resold on the black market, where some experts have estimated 40% of all subsidized food ends up.

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