Coconut water from the USA, milk from France, peaches from Spain or Mexican beer. A supermarket in Caracas it is full of imported products, more and more present on the shelves of Venezuela, a country in crisis that exempts foreign items from taxes in a policy that the unions denounce as “unfair competition.”
The president of the Venezuelan Council of Commerce and Services (Consecomercio), Tiziana Polesel, told Efe that there is “unfair competition” between import and national production because, “while this tax is not charged for a product to be marketed in Venezuela (…) the national manufacturer of the same product is charged all taxes to import the inputs it needs to manufacture “.
Polesel clarified that “before they had to pay taxes to nationalize these products and today they are exempt.” which “benefits a sector that has been able to import” with “competitive prices”.
Indeed, in 2018 President Nicolás Maduro signed a decree with which duty-free import of intermediate and finished products to “accelerate the growth of the country.” Although the exemption was for one year, the decree has been maintained with extensions since then.
The Venezuelan manufacturing industry union has since requested that the products made in Venezuela enjoy the same benefits that are granted to imported.
The shopping carts of the consumers of a supermarket, in the west of Caracas, are loaded with these foreign items that many pay in dollars, the currency of reference and frequent use in transactions due to the insufficiency of the bolivar.
But “this supermarket is not for everyone”Said a 66-year-old salaryman to Efe who came out with a bag with a few products and spent the equivalent of $ 8, in a country where hyperinflation has diminished the purchasing power of citizens with an official minimum wage that does not reach 3 dollars.
“There is variety, but what there is not is consumption, lpeople don’t have a way to buy those products “Polesel noted.
The man, who preferred not to give his name, explains that “the (high) prices are widespread.” “I charge the fortnight, I go out to buy something and my account is empty until next time “, lament.
Another option are popular markets like that of Quinta Crespo, also in the west of Caracas.
On a Saturday morning it’s busy: “To order, to order!”repeat merchants trying to attract customers.
In this market there is abundant national product, as in the stand of Brian Cáceres, 27, who sells corn flour, coffee, milk and sauces and considers that his sales have fallen, in part, because it cannot compete with imported items.
“People don’t eat quality, they eat price”, assures this young merchant, who adds that the final cost of the national product “receives all the problems: that if the ‘matraqueo’ (extortion of authorities), that if you have to give it to so-and-so, that if you have to pay this (.. .) on the other hand, an imported product will always be the same standard, the same price. “
“Outside it doesn’t change, outside the prices don’t change. Here, if they charged you 100 on the way you have to put it at the price. If not, you’re going to lose it, “insists the man who has been working in that position for 6 months, and for five years in another market.
In a meeting last week with President Nicolás Maduro, opposition deputy José Gregorio Correa denounced that the transport of national products it is made more expensive by bribes to authorities on the roads.
From the regions they leave “100 products and 45 arrive” to Caracas because on the way the producers must go down merchandise at the police checkpoints (checkpoints), the parliamentarian denounced.
Polesel added that there are industries “paralyzed by lack of fuel”, which adds to the constant power failures, “an impediment to working productively”, and to the “voracious increase in municipal taxes.”
“There are regions that are in a truly worrying state of devastation” (…) Sometimes, we make the mistake of thinking that the country is Caracas “, he maintains.
The shelves stocked with food and products have brought peace of mind for many Venezuelans, after years of great scarcity and nervous purchases. The wage earner who spent the $ 8 in the market full of imported goods, despite not having the purchasing power to buy them, He says that in regards to “food there is more peace of mind”.
“When you see the food, you feel calmer, you see them and you know that tomorrow you will come to buy it and so (…) Even though you don’t have the money at the moment, you already know that you are going to get it“, he concluded.