Social Control: Maduro’s CLAP
By Diálogo January 24, 2020
In 2019, the food distributed through the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP, in Spanish) of the Nicolás Maduro regime, reached fewer families, while delivery time increased. In addition, some products, such as canned tuna and wheat flour, were excluded from the subsidized food program, said a report from Venezuelan nongovernmental organization (NGO) Ciudadanía en Acción (Citizens in Action) published at the end of 2019.
According to the NGO, the delivery time for CLAP boxes (or bags) went from an average of 35 to 47 days in nine months. In February, the program delivered 11 million boxes, but in November this number dropped to only 2.5 million — data wasn’t available for December.
“This year , I’ve only received seven CLAP boxes as of mid-December,” said Pablo, a man in his fifties, who asked to remain anonymous, and who lives with his family in the town of Guatire, 25 miles west of Caracas. The boxes, he told Diálogo, last only five days for a family of five, and according to estimates by Ciudadanía en Acción, they cover only 15 percent of a person’s basic nutritional requirements.
The program, created in June 2016, promised to deliver basic foodstuffs (corn flour, wheat flour, rice, pasta, sugar, canned tuna, oil, and powdered milk) every 15 days for only 10,000 bolivars ($0.30, according to the exchange rate for January 1, 2020). In the last two months of 2019, the bag cost 80,000 bolivars ($2.40), or more than half of the minimum monthly wage of 150,000 bolivar ($4.40), which the government approved in October.
Another NGO, Transparencia Venezuela (Transparency Venezuela), received many complaints during 2019 about irregularities in the state program. The reports included delays in food delivery (of up to seven months in some scarcely populated areas), unsafe food (such as expired milk or food contaminated with worms), as well as boxes that were delivered opened or with missing products. In July 2019, the NGO also reported that many people had complained that they were not given the boxes because they had taken part in protests against the government.
Government officials said that they would “optimize” the program, and attributed irregularities to boxes “going missing on their way” and theft from black market operators.
For Edison Arciniegas, head of Ciudadanía en Acción, this is about the “politics of food.”
“No social control mechanism is more effective than controlling water and food. If you control this, you control the population,” Arciniegas, who thinks the strategy has been effective so far, told Diálogo. “There are fewer protests, or at least they haven’t increased in certain areas, such as near Miraflores [the presidential palace], and they are less violent. Those who receive the CLAP benefits continue to be [members] of the opposition, but they refrain from taking a position that might endanger this supply.”