Puebla, Mexico, March 2 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced Wednesday plans to expand his government’s flagship anti-scarcity program to cover 6 million families.
“I want us to take a firm step, and to think big,” Maduro told state media.
The program, the Local Provision and Production Committees (CLAPs) currently cover 5,734,705 households across the country, according to government figures. Maduro said his government aims to reach the goal of 6 million by March 12. That date will mark the one year anniversary of the founding of the CLAPs.
The announcement was made while Maduro was attending the inauguration of a new CLAP packaging centre in Sucre state. Maduro said the new facility will produce over 80,000 packages of basic food goods every month. He continued by stating he hoped to see more social movements and communal councils aid the government in distribution.
“I want the month of March to be the month of the productive revolution for all the CLAPs registered across the country,” he said.
He added that more variety of products will be included in CLAP bags in the future. According to the president, the government recently secured a deal with domestic fisheries to provide 150 tonnes of canned sardines a day for CLAP networks.
What are the CLAPs?
The CLAP program is an arrangement between the government and grassroots groups aimed at distributing subsidised food and other basic household goods to low income Venezuelan households.
“The CLAPs are an advance in terms of state’s organisational capacity to have food arrive more effectively house-by-house in each communal council,” the National Communal Network’s Atenea Jimenez said earlier this year.
While Venezuela’s commune movement largely supports the CLAPs, the opposition has long claimed the program discriminates against households that don’t support the government. According to the government, the CLAPs have reduced hunger and food scarcity across the country.
Venezuela’s scarcity problem
For years, Venezuelan consumers have been hit with scarcity of goods ranging from coffee to rice, and medicine to replacement parts for vehicles. Although many of these products can be found in private markets, they are often sold at a price that is prohibitive for ordinary Venezuelans and which flouts government price control regulations.
While the country’s opposition blames the scarcity on government policies such as the controlled currency exchange system, Maduro has blamed sabotage by politically motivated private businesses.
Last week, a survey conducted by a group of Venezuelan universities concluded over 30 percent of the population are living off two or less meals a day. The ENCOVI survey authors also claimed the national poverty rate has increased from 73 percent to nearly 82 percent over the past year. Maduro is yet to respond to the claims, though in previous years the government has dismissed the ENCOVI survey as unreliable, and based on anecdotal evidence.
“These [results] contrast with the scientifically proven figures of the National Institute of Statistics (INE) that show that 95 percent of Venezuelans eat three or more times a day,” state media outlet AVN reported in 2016.