Americas, Venezuela, Human Rights, Opinion, Politics

CLAP: Venezuela’s Desperate Try to Feed Its Population

The Local Committees for Production and Supply (CLAP in Spanish) are groups of people that, promoted by the government of Venezuela, get together and deliver boxes of food to citizens. According to the government, they are a way of fighting the economic crisis and shortage of food brought about by the economic war of the right-wing sectors of the country. So far so good, right?

They started in 2016 when President Nicolas Maduro, in a State of Emergency Decree, said that the CLAP were in charge of guaranteeing distribution of basic articles. However, these organizations, together with the army and the police, can also be in charge of surveying and controlling local groups and smaller organizations where people “get organized”.

What’s Wrong with CLAP Boxes?

Food is something a government should not play with, and these food boxes have given Venezuelans a lot to talk about. Some say they want them because it is their right, others say it is offensive and just another way of controlling you. The biggest issue with CLAP boxes is that they are not a solution: the productive sector of the country is still abandoned, the GDP of the country continues to fall, and hyperinflation is just starting. Meanwhile, the government buys these products and goes further into debt with other countries since all of the products are imported.

There are also rumors that President Maduro owns some of the Mexican companies that “sell” the products. And we have a very nice idiomatic expression for that “He pays himself and he also takes the change” (Se paga y se da el vuelto). Most products are from Mexico, Chile, Panama, and Ecuador. Nothing is produced in Venezuela. The government claims this is due to the economic war the country has been hit with, organized by far-right capitalist-fascist company owners who are against Venezuela’s “real” people and willing to let them starve.

What’s in the CLAP Box?

Products vary from one area of the country to another and some citizens never actually get it because they just don’t comply with the government’s requirements like being part of a Community Council or belonging to one or another government’s party. Requirements also vary according to the head of the Committee in charge. Most CLAP boxes have 1 or 2 kilos of pasta, rice, and corn flour; some ketchup and mayo; some beans and canned tuna. Milk, sugar and cooking oil are the most beloved products although they are not present all the time. No poultry, meat or fish, it is just dry products that can be stored for longer periods of time.

Something people have complained about is the quality of the products, most milk bags have very little protein and some are “dairy products”, but not necessarily milk. The Central University of Venezuela carried out a study and discovered that the milk used in CLAP boxes had less than half of the protein they claimed on the label and children would have to drink 40 glasses to get the minimum they require to grow healthy. The same goes for the rest of the products – they are the cheapest you can get in their country of origin.

Venezuela: Debt vs. Food

In order to get your CLAP box, you have to be registered in your local community council. You have to make a deposit in one of the Banks the State owns to pay for your CLAP box and you can now use your “Patria ID” (motherland ID) for payment. Many of these councils have requested the ID as obligatory while others don’t. One CLAP box per family, per month. Buying those products in local markets, if you find them, would cost at least ten times the minimum monthly wage. So how is the government selling it at 10% of a minimum monthly wage? While some people think it is just the government being generous, some of us know this is just the country’s debt rising higher and higher. Rest assured, someday we will have to pay that, even though we are already suffering its consequences.

I don’t receive it. I don’t want to be on their list, I don’t want that “benefit”. I am sure they are going to charge me later for all this “help” they are offering now. As my friend @periodismodepaz says: they lie all the time, regardless of whenever you read this.

About Isabel Matos

Isabel is a Venezuelan translator that struggles to find a voice and to prosper in today’s political turmoil and tension. She is also an undergraduate English teacher and is currently pursuing a Master’s in English as a Foreign Language. Translator, teacher and always student, she is interested in how language shapes reality and how women and men negotiate power through discourse.

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