Jose Luis Ramirez, 28, lives in San Felipe, Yaracuy, Venezuela. Every week he tells about his life in Venezuela, in this exclusive Chile Today column. Today no. 6, about the box.
Nowadays, Venezuelans eat after long periods only, specifically until the government supplies what everyone calls ‘the box.’ It contains products that are supposed to be delivered to the population every month. But the fact is that Venezuelans live every day the uncertainty of not knowing whether ‘the box’ will arrive. The products in it are cheaper than in stores, for example, one kilogram of pasta costs around Bsf$ 4 million (around US$1) but the box with many more products costs around Bsf$ 1 million. Yet the real problem is that no one knows when the box is coming.
Among the contents are basic supplies like pasta, flour, rice, black beans, mayonnaise, canned tuna, sometimes coffee, and once in a while milk. They could vary, it could be more or less, and it is difficult to give an exact number of products. The government says 19, but many times people complain because they get less. Notably, most of those products are not produced in our country as many of them come from Panama and Mexico. The government’s rationale is to defend with this measure the people from the economic war perpetrated by the opposition.
A powerful weapon
Local production and supply committees (CLAP, Spanish acronym) are in charge of the protocol to collect and supply the box nationally. The government uses the CLAP acronym to describe an action it considers a powerful weapon in the economic war, but it seems to be something else – it makes people dependent on the government to be able to eat. In my opinion, the measure could work if it was for the poor and desperate, not for the majority of people who simply used to go to a supermarket to buy the products they liked the most.
Yet, nowadays all Venezuelans depend mainly on the box, due to hyperinflation and scarcity. Why does the whole population have to depend on the government to get even basic products? We should be able to produce our food and medicine, and of course import some too, why not? Import is relevant for every country, but it isn’t appropriate to lack a national production system.
To make the CLAP system function, the government has divided the cities into sectors depending on demography. Each block has a representative at the CLAPs, who collects money in the sector and delivers the box in return. Many people, including myself, think that the government uses this method to make the people afraid of losing the CLAP benefit. Thus, plenty of Venezuelans feel obliged to vote for the government. But the decision to change this crisis must be our call, when the election comes. However, there are still people who prefer to continue with this situation, instead of voting differently. I’ve heard people saying “I will vote for President Maduro, otherwise I could lose the government benefits.”
But not everyone thinks like that. Many people remain hopeful about a future change. A change that will empower all Venezuelans again, and not only the ones who support the government, if only for practical reasons. That change is possible.