Venezuela to install 20,000 fingerprint scanners in supermarkets as shortages take their toll
Venezuela is planning to roll out 20,000 fingerprint scanners across the country in a desperate bid to prevent citizens from hoarding and panic buying.
President Nicolas Maduro is an enthusiastic supporter of the programme that was mooted last year and received withering criticism.
Venezuela has been running short of basic goods like toilet paper, soap and cooking oil, creating huge queues outside supermarkets.
Strict currency controls and a shortage of US dollars have crippled consumers' ability to get hold of imported goods. The fingerprint scanners will be concentrated in grocery stores along the country's border with Colombia.
A range of products in receipt of subsidies or subject to price controls in Venezuela are frequently smuggled across the Colombian border where they can command a higher price.
In a worrying sign of the government's increasing paranoia, the owners of several supermarket chains were recently arrested for allegedly conspiring to create long queues to undermine the government. Maduro accused the businessmen of waging "economic war" against the Venezuelan state.
Out-of-control inflation and empty shop shelves have now become a regular feature of Venezuelan life. Poverty has soared over the last two years and economists expect little to change unless the government's rigid price controls and iron grip over the economy are abandoned.
Venezuela recently topped Bloomberg's misery index thanks to its dire financial situation which has been exacerbated by the collapse in the oil price. Last year, the Fraser Institute in Canada named Venezuela the least economically free nation.