Food Rationing in Socialist Venezuela Leads to Mob Fighting Over Milk

It took nearly two hours to get to the check-out counter


Socialism. It really works. If you don't believe me, just ask any of these people fighting over rationed supplies of powdered milk. (via Ace)

Venezuela's powdered milk crisis has a long wacky history full of price control problems. Chavez and his even loonier successor Maduro have tried to set price controls for powdered milk.

Unfortunately neighboring Columbia would love to buy all of Venezuela's powdered milk at real market prices leading Chavez to denounce dairy companies that sell milk abroad as "traitors".

"I'm putting you on alert," Chavez said. "If there's a producer that refuses to sell the product ... and sells it at a higher price abroad ... ministers, find me the proof so it can be expropriated."

Addressing his Cabinet, he said: "If the army must be brought in, you bring in the army."

Chavez issued the warning on his weekly broadcast program "Hello President" after announcing a hike in milk prices, a measure intended to counter recent shortages.

The plant in the town of Machiques was bought last year from Italy's Parmalat SpA. Chavez said it cost some $3.7 million and is being relaunched as a "socialist business" by the state.

Maduro launched raids against "milk hoarders" confiscating milk for the people leading to absurd mob scenes like these with only one can to a person. (Anything else would be hoarding.)

Here's an account of what it's like to try and buy milk in Venezuela. Any resemblance to the Soviet Union is not accidental.

Last week, we were walking near a Bicentenario (large, government-run markets offering products at reasonable or “friendly” prices) and saw a number of people walk out with cans of milk.

“Hey, look!” said my partner, who’s always on the lookout for these kinds of things, as though she were the one from Cuba.

When we went inside the market, we were somewhat disappointed: there wasn’t a single can of milk left on the shelves, even though purchases are restricted to one can per person.

Someone said to us: “Stay close to the chekout counters. When one person tries to buy two cans, they take one away from them and you can have one of those.”

Team work is always more productive, so I stood in line to buy something while my partner went out to hunt, that is, to stand by the check-outs to see if some unfortunate soul was forced to part with one of their cans of milk.

It took nearly two hours to get to the check-out counter and, during this time, I was able to see and hear a bit of everything.

Standing in line ahead of me was an elderly gentleman who had left his home early in the morning to go shopping at the opposite end of Caracas and had to walk a very long distance to get his hands on some milk for his granddaughter (the child’s father could not take on such a journey, for he was bed-ridden, recovering from a gunshot wound).

While we were talking, a man arrived, stuck his hand into a pile of bags of bread on a shelf and “found” a can of milk. He darted off with it, in the direction of a check-out.

The people in line immediately reacted. Shelves with milk cans among bags of bread?

Like in the Old West, but without the gunfire, the line lunged towards the shelves and began looking for the much-coveted white gold. Nearly everyone in the line found cans of milk, mysteriously hidden behind other products.

Someone gave me one of the ones they found and told me people hide them in order to go to the check-out more than once and to be able to buy two or more cans.

People who sell these also hide them. Perhaps even the market employees do so. It really makes no difference.

Some cursed. Others said that everyone should have the right to buy as many products as they want, the way it’s always been.

Welcome to Socialism. If you like your powdered milk, get ready to take one can of it home. If you can find.