27/01/14 – On the Colombian border, food and petrol are regularly smuggled into the neighbouring country in a process known as ‘Bachaqueo’. This practice has been common in the state of Zulia since time immemorial as a way of making a living, but is now considered illegal.
The governor of the Venezuelan state of Zulia, Francisco Arias Cárdenas, has emphasised that “it’s not only those trafficking goods illegally into Colombia who are damaging us, but those who buy here and sell at an inflated price”. There is enough food in Venezuela, according to Arias, so we must look at why the issue of scarcity is so prominent today.
While the ‘Bachaqueo’ is an established trade, the reasons and motives for its existence have evolved. Even the groups of people involved in the trade have changed. As contraband trading is so profitable, it is actually a practice that is on the rise. On a daily basis, we can see endless queues of people outside shops and supermarkets, waiting for basic products which have been regulated.
The birth of the ‘Parallel Dollar’ or the ‘Black Dollar’ means that, when something is produced in Venezuela, with a fixed maximum consumer price, it becomes profitable when smuggled into Colombia – where it is considered economical. Among the products smuggled across the border are regulated food items, petrol, regulated building materials, and non-regulated items such as alcohol, clothes, and cosmetics.
Under the Bolivarian Revolution, the government has tried to ensure Venezuela has food sovereignty, regulating the price of many basic products. However, due to a lack of patriotic conscience, the acquisition of such products has become a daily ordeal. We need to ask how well we are keeping an eye on the regulation of products. Instead of the policy of regulation being at fault, it is more accurate to say that there is insufficient vigilance to ensure that Venezuelan food is only for Venezuelans. It is also important, as President Maduro has said, to eradicate the corruption and organised crime present in different public bodies.
To deal with this form of self-flagellation we must:
1) Ensure that ID cards are used to show when people are acquiring regulated products.
2) End open-air sales of regulated products or ensure that ID cards are also used at these events.
3) Keep a more vigilant eye on what happens inside and outside shops selling regulated products, especially on those working in these places.
4) Increase police presence on the less common routes used to traffic products out of the country in lorries.
5) Ensure that there is investment and work near the border so that local inhabitants have a legitimate and dignified alternative to trading contraband goods.
6) Advertise and facilitate the reporting of small vendors who participate in this trade in order to increase the consciousness of citizens regarding the damage caused by this illegal trade.
7) Increase sentences or fines for those involved in the trade.
8) Use random inspections to ensure that bribes are not being accepted by officials.
Food sovereignty is being gravely affected by the ‘Bachaqueo’ and we cannot continue to accept this trade. Governor Arias seems committed to dealing with this issue, and police forces are now set to launch an offensive on those involved in the trade.
Adapted and translated from an article by Miguel Ángel Briceño Piña from 20/08/2013, found at: http://www.aporrea.org/contraloria/a172090.html