The Week in Bullets

Fake it until you make it? Nah

We went all crazy on Monday when once again the government announced there was going to be a minister rotation. The ministers put their positions at Maduro’s disposal and nothing happened. A symbolic gesture perhaps to catch everybody offguard as they announced some pretty disturbing news.

And the boy cried when the wolf finally bit him

During a nationwide broadcast, that which people thought would address the Minister swap, President Maduro announced the new policy that will allow them to squander contraband —remember the War on Contraband is the new not so admirable campaign of the Government—: A state of the art biometric system that will limit the items a single costumer buys at the supermarket. While shopping at a given establishment the obedient citizen must place his/her finger in a captahuella. Then, the system will say if this person hasn’t depleted his/her weekly rations. Yep, rations. As in rationing. It’s finally here. The Maduro rationing food rationing system is a techie version of the Cuban ration card.

This is the second attempt —this year— to implement a rationing system. The first one targeted state owned supermarkets, and in the end it was a way to obtain subsidized products. It didn’t fly. Maduro could not explain much as to how the biometric system would work but promised it would be in place in every supermarket by December.

The other day, some lady stuffed a couple of cocaine patties where her breast implants should have gone. There’s just no limit at what us Venezuelans could come up with, to go around this biometric system thing. Fingers a la carte? Perhaps. The Bello Monte Morgue is stuffed with those. Exaggerated?

Juan the Ripper

DESCUARTIZADOPieces of another hacked person where found in Maracay. The body parts were scattered on a hill and there is no information as to the vic’s identity. Since late 2013 fifteen people have been butchered —in the most literal manner you can imagine— in the country.

In our last recap we told the story of a mysterious lady torso that appeared in downtown Caracas. Well, the arms and legs finally turned up in El Avila National Park. No head yet though. This new wave of violent murders goes beyond cruelty, we are deep in psychotic territory. Last week a man was found hanging from his neck on a tree in front of CCT (one of Caracas most traditional malls), displayed beside Francisco Fajardo (Caracas’ most transited highway).       

Other creepy news? A dime a dozen. On Thursday a 22 year old murdered his sisters while he was being subject to an exorcism. The women believed their little brother was possessed by the devil.

Any wonder as to why Venezuelans feel unsafest in the world?


There has been talk that Ramirez’s “pragmatic” policies have been dumped once again since they don’t provide immediate-snap-your-fingers results. And yes, the implementation of the rationing system reminds us more of a Giordani style approach to scarcity, and mid week Ramírez said Venezuela could not implement a unitary exchange rate —as promised— and that it was likely that by the end of the year we will be between two official exchange rates. I guess that by December Maduro will be able to say: “See? I told you the 6.30 Bolivarian rate would hold.” 

Meanwhile, the Monk has disappeared. No one has seen him in weeks, although many swear to have spotted his ghost lurking the halls of Miraflores, the Central Bank, and PDVSA. By striking him down it seems he became more powerful than we could have ever imagined.

The Monk

Start spreading the news…

During the last events at Tower of David, the government said many times they don’t evict people. That’s a capitalist practice. The Revolution relocates. It seem this is what happened with Chavez’s favorite daughter, María Gabriela, who was relocated from La Casona to New York City, after her appointment as alternate ambassador at the UN. Bloomberg View posted a fun piece on the subject.

The end of the Gaza conflict

After announcing the new biometric system thing, Maduro went on to say they would bring 1000 palestinian kids that were to be fed, clothed, and educated by the Bolivarian Revolution, before sending them back to Palestine. 1000 Palestinian kids infected with inept Bolivarianism. You can kiss that Gaza strip goodbye.

And on related news, in the search for new business partners, the National Assembly just approved the Treaty to Avoid double Taxation with the State of Palestine. (Gaceta Oficial – August 21st 2014)

Gaceta Palestina

A shout out to Yordano

In a recent interview, Ombudsperson Gabriela del Mar Ramirez, said that the hospitals’ request to declare the Venezuelan health system at emergency was disproportionate (disproportionate, like the excessive use of brute force in repressing the student protests). Well, as karma follows closely each word Gabriela del Mar spews, a couple of days later, beloved Venezuelan singer-songwriter Yordano revealed to Ismael Cala on CNN that he has been struggling to find the necessary drugs for his cancer treatment. Yes, Yordano is sick. And yes, when one of the country’s most important musicians requires the aid of strangers to find his medicine, we can say the health system can be declared on emergency.

Here is the clip to Yordano’s heartbreaking interview.

Get well soon, man.

33 thoughts on “The Week in Bullets

  1. will this biometric thing will actually be implemented? or will it just go down the reculating drain like everything that has been proposed in the last few weeks, what are the odds right now?.

    loved the star wars touch in the article, don’t like to think that Giordani is a jedi tho.


    • There’s no capacity to actually put in service such system, at least outside Goverment-owned stores (that are as empty as all the others, BTW). Is logistically impossible (CANTV’s broadband service simply can’t take the load, for starters), and is just yet another fake project to get some of that PDVSA money.

      Just as the fake closing of the frontier, that amounts to leave foxes taking care of the hen house.

      That said, the mere attempt will be another degradation of the living standard on this country.


  2. Any wonder as to why Venezuelans feel unsafest in the world?
    From what I have read about Venezuela’s crime and murder rates, along with how few crimes and murders get solved, no.
    I would be interested in how those wiser than I would explain how Venezuelans feel unsafest in the world while from one survey, Venezuelans are the 7th happiest in the world. Venezuelans like feeling insecure? I have no idea how to reconcile these two surveys.

    My immediate reaction is to decide that surveys need to be taken with a grain- or a ton- of salt.


    • “Venezuelans are the 7th happiest in the world. Venezuelans like feeling insecure? I have no idea how to reconcile these two surveys.”

      The German population were pretty happy from 1930 to 1940, despite the holocaust. They started feeling ‘gloomy’ when they became the targets. The same thing can be said about Venezuela.

      Venezuela Population: 30 million
      Murdered per year: 25,000

      That’s not even 0.5% of the population being murdered, if you add the relatives of the deceased and count them as “affected by crime”, you will still not reach 1%.

      So, yeah, assuming that most of the population are not directly affected by crime and that Venezuela’s has poor PISA results, you will have a population that doesn’t even read the news, and are so happy right now that they would re-elect Maduro if they could.


      • Two comments : one, as noble prize winner D. Kahneman has pointed out: ‘reported happiness’ is not the same as ‘experienced happiness ‘ , We report ourselves happy because that signals personal success something that flatters our pride while reporting ourselves unhappy signals our own failure which injures our feelings of self worth . Venezuelans being so proudly ‘Macho’ cant stand showing themselves as unhappy failures , thus they must report themselves as ecstatically happy , which also tells us something about Venezuelans natural conceit and capacity for self deceit.

        Second , on why we dont always feel crime as affecting us (even crime as widespread as it exists in Venezuela) , there is an article by Malcolm Gladwell which recounts how at the start of WWII London authorities expected wide spread depression as a result of the constant nazi bombardments , but where surprised when that never happened , people kept their pluck even as bombs rained down on them , Why ?? Because people who werent ‘near missses’ felt impregnable , if the bomb didnt hit me but hit somewhere else then I have nothing to fear. The explanation is more elaborate than I can describe in this text but look for the Gladwell article and its all there . ( I think its in one of the pieces included in his book ‘Outliers’) .


    • And Colombia is the 2nd or 3rd happiest country with over 6 million victims of a 50-year old armed conflict. That happiness “study” gets rehashed year after year and is very, very iffy. One instance I saw they divided raw happiness by CO2 emissions so obviously less economically developed countries got a huge bump even if the Australians, the Canadians or the Swedes had a higher raw happiness score.


      • Perhaps Colombians are happy that the conflict has been winding down. From what I have read, Bogota is a much safer city today than it used to be. That could also be a reason for happiness.


  3. The fingerprint system would require every shop to have a computer terminal hooked up to the internet.

    The system would have to be independent of the electrical system, at least if service interruptions in the latter don’t cause lengthy delays in buying dinner.

    Is this realistic?


    • Thanks for the free ad, Miguel.

      The more I read the more I am amazed. The government really thinks that because the system can be implemented in a single supermarket it can scale to hundred of thousands of nodes nationwide. Network performance is a difficult animal that cannot always be tamed with technology. People thing that because they through technology at a problem, everything will work. They forget about trafic and, in particular the non-linearity of trafic, that is one of the major scalability roadblocks….


      • Great post Bruni! I’m sure they’ve thought out all these scenarios regarding the biometric system ;)


      • Can’t they piggyback on the existing network used for debit and credit card transactions? That network is very extensive already in Venezuela and even if there is no internet access there are wireless points available for dial up.


        • South, many things can be done, but whatever the technology, the problem is the added delay.

          You’ve got: transmission and propagation delay for the biometric information + search delay in the server for the match of the biometric information + transmission and propagation delay back to OK the biometric information + transmission and propagation delay for all the items that the person bought + search delay for each item to make sure that it is within the imposed constraints + transmission and propagation delay to OK or not the information. That is just in terms of delay, to that you have to add the possibility of blocking at the server. If the system is national, or regional, there will be thousands of simultaneous requests to the same server(s).
          And, of course, this is all assuming that everything works perfectly, no failures in the system.

          The problem, as I explained in my post is that that new delay introduced by the captahuellas reduces the service time of the system. So if the system is grossly over-dimensioned, you’ll probably have no problem.
          In that case, the system will be operating almost in the linear part of the performance curve, so the added delay will have a small effect. Now, the moment you’ve got some busyness (imagine a MACRO in a Saturday afternoon), the system will be operating in the non-linear part of the performance curve and we’ll have the compounding effect of the delay, that can be catastrophic.

          The key of the problem is the non-linearity of networks and queuing systems. That is why, if there is a car accident that takes 5 minutes to be cleared, and you are waiting in line, it will not take you 5 minutes more for you to get home, but probably much much more, depending on the condition of traffic when the accident happened.

          The government keeps telling that the new system will only add a few seconds, they do not seem to realize that even that can be problematic in a congested system. My impression, but maybe I am wrong, is that the government probably found a feasible solution from the technical standpoint (technology, protocols, etc.) and stop there, forgetting the non-linearity effects on system performance.


  4. What I do not understand is how the fingerprint system can help to ration the acquisition of food if it focuses on just the person that is buying. How can they account for how many people someone is buying? Someone could be buying just for himself and someone else for a family of 8, others could be buying for a small restaurant or a large one or even a ‘comedor’. In that sense it would be a lousy rationing system.

    Maduro said that the system is not for rationing, but a government official doing a demonstration of the system, said that the limit was four units per product per person per week and that that was ‘enough’. Who should we believe?

    During the demonstration, the government official had to use both index fingers and his id card to register into the system. That took 73 seconds, under ideal conditions. It may not sound like much, but go ahead and wait 73 seconds. Now imagine having to do that with each person in front you in a line.
    They already ask for your ID number with every purchase, in that sense the fingerprint would not add any new information, only a certification that you are the ID holder.


    • In our case we own a posada (B&B) & in busy times we have upwards of 20 guests + our employees & ourselves.

      My wife & it now run from store to store every morning to make sure we have sufficient supplies to satisfy our guests.

      As it is now there is no relaxation of the current limits on products, usually 2 each, when we use our RIF ID to purchase things.

      It will be intersting to see how they handle businesses.


  5. It seems the most important datum in the captahuellas system will be what each purchaser is entitled to. Will a mother of eight face the same milk ration as a senior? Will high-ranking PSUV members have extra foods entitlements at the back end?

    It will look egalitarian because the ration to each individual is secret.


  6. How many Venezuelans think every day that in Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay you don’t have to go through that rubbish?
    Those Venezuelan politicians who often fly to the US or the EU should actually tell people how life is in South America outside Venezuela.


    • The most common reply is that in Colombia (or wherever) the poorest people just can’t buy food, that people with money eat it all and that in Venezuela since everyone is getting their bit you have to control that nobody is taking excess. That’s chavinomics for you.


  7. If all this effort is to combat reverse smuggling which has become a problem , then how come it didnt exist before , How come during the whole period of Venezuelas existence as a modern nation , 60 or more years , people could buy what they wanted when they wanted without having to think of the smuggling problem . Why is there no effort to explain why it has become a problem now and was never a problem before . Something must have happened the last few years which made smuggling such a problem , some to do with the govts handling of the economy . But this latter question is never addressed . The issued is not even recognized to exist . They have the effrontery to take from us the freedom to decide what we buy and in what number to fight a problem which origins are never discussed !! Alberto Barrero had it right in this mornings Opinion piece at El Nacional , The most bitter pill Venezuelans have to swallow is their indignation at the effrontery with which the regime takes its stupid decisions and imposes it on us using the flimsiests of explantions if at all .!!


    • They provide food to the poor through below-market prices. So people buy cheaply, then sell at market rates. And if there are no controls on how much you can buy, you buy a lot more than you need, and profit accordingly.

      That’s why they now need controls. But of course, the needs of the poor can be met through cash payments (known as “welfare” in many advanced countries). That way, poor people can buy food at market prices, and all the crazy distortions and rationing controls are avoided.

      Why don’t they do this? Because the controls are a feature, not a bug.


      • Jeffry the smuggling problem is related to the fact that the exchange rate used by the govt to allow the purchase of dollars is artificially high thus making prices, in venezuela much much lower than those in colombia creating a very strong arbitrage incentive to smuggle goods from Venezuela to Colombia .

        This situation is made worse because local manufacture and agrigulture has been ruined by years of regimen measures hostile to local businesses (replaced by inept Govt run operations) greatly increasing Venezuelas dependence on imports .

        .Much of the smuggling is done at a bulk level by big operators with the connivance of corrupt military and local officials, This in turn has created situations of scarcity in the supply of basic stapples which people respond to buy all they can when these stapples become available ( hoarding is rampant) or by syphoning these goods away from their normal outlets to sell at local bodegas which prices the govt doenst dare control ( because they are owned by govt sypathyzers)

        If the regime adopted a rational foreign currency exchange rate and distribution scheme and stopped harrasing local business with expropiations and labour policies and other policies hostile to businesses , the smuggling problem would go away or would be greatly reduced

        Rationing of a sort is already being applied , in certain parts of the city supermarkets owned by govt connected people and where most inhabitants are known to sympathize with the govt get specially large supplies which are distributed among the buyers more generously than they are elsewhere . The queues are long but you get parcels of scarce goods which are bigger than at other places which the buyers then can resell at a high profit at other places where these stapples cannot be found

        Owners of private supermarkets get invaded by organized groups of govt hoodlums which come in droves whenever some scarce item is sent to them , the supermarket cannot restrict their purchases for fear that they will be attacked so they let them take what they want . Other times the labourers in these supermarkets (through regime pressures) are granted the privilege of buying large amounts of scarce goods preferentially at the expense of the items which are left for the public to purchase.. The vices and abuses accompanying the wholesale distribution of food and other goods are too many to mention in this text !!

        Also pilfering of goods at govt owned food distribution centres are rampant , Maduro himself has admitted that in one of the larger of these places pilfering is responsible for the loss of 50% of the products they recieve !!


  8. Could Venezuela ever be even a little like Norway? – And I’m not referring to the climate. s


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