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Venezuela government looking to biometrics to prevent food smuggling


Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro announced that the government will soon introduce fingerprint scanners at supermarkets in an effort to ration individuals’ food purchases and prevent food smuggling, according to a report by The Guardian.

The move is part of the country-wide initiative to combat chronic food shortages, which the government blames on smugglers who purchase cheap goods and resell them for up to four times their original price to countries across the border, specifically in Colombia.

This is already the government’s second attempt to implement a biometric identification system to track and limit food purchases, following a program introduced earlier this year that asked citizens to voluntarily use a similar system in government-run shops but it failed to move beyond its trial phase.

The new identification system will use fingerprint scanners to prevent Venezuelans from repeatedly visiting the supermarket to purchase overwhelmingly large amounts of food.

“We are creating a biometric system … to function in all distribution and retail systems, public and private,” Maduro said in a television address. “This will be – like the fingerprint scan we use in our electoral system – a perfect anti-fraud system.”

He offered no information about how the system will work or when it will come into effect.

So far, the proposed fingerprinting system has seen a predominate backlash from opposition parties such as Justice First, comparing the plan to communist rationing.

“This is nothing less than the Cuban rationing book,” said Alfonso Marquina of the opposition Justice First party. “The government can’t presume to tell a family what it’s going to eat.

Smuggling of goods, such as gas, into neighbouring countries has become so widespread that Venezuela recently closed its 1,400-mile border with Colombia every night to prevent cases of smuggling.

Many critics, including the Colombian government, believe that the new biometric identification system will not resolve the issue of food shortages.

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