Lost in the supermarket

A recent shot of Hypermarket Koma in Puerto Ordaz, tweeted by a worker who paid for it with his job

The Koma hypermarket in Puerto Ordaz was taken over by the Chavernment in 2010, as part of the expropiation of Frigorificos Ordaz S.A. (Friosa). Almost a year later, a video posted on YouTube showed the reality of Koma.

Later still, a group of workers made public that they were fired because of comments they made on Twitter about the lack of supplies in the store, and for taking pictures of empty shelves.

Even if the State continues to bring massive amounts of imported food into Puerto Cabello, many shelves in Venezuelan supermarkets remain bare. CAVIDEA, the national food industry association has indicated that food shortages have intensified in the last five years. The Chavernment insists that the current situation is quite the opposite.

In his current presidential period, the comandante presidente has established three major public store chains: Mercal, Pdval and the Bicentenario Hypermarkets. The latter was brought into the public spotlight recently as Chavez himself opened a new one in Caracas.

The Bicentenario chain wasn’t built from scratch like Mercal or Pdval, but consisted of taking over two private supermarket chains: Cada and Exito (once owned by the French Casino Group). A second French company, Carrefour is involved as minority partner. The stores don’t just sell groceries, but also offer subsidized electric appliances at low prices, as part of another program: Mi casa bien equipada.

As the latest Bicentenario opening was inmediately used as PR material, reality found a way to knock down the image presented by the TV ad: workers staged a protest near the Presidential Palace to complain about the lack of a collective bargaining agreement for six years and problems procuring products and the conditions of the store.

None of that is new, according to this article in Aporrea.

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  1. Serious non-troll comment, guys. If you’re going to write about the abandoned projects you also have to cover the non-abandoned ones. At least some of them. At least 1:1.

    Otherwise a casual observer might think your concern for the non-projects only extends to what political mileage you can obtain from publicising it.

    Even worse, an informed observer who knows the amount of projects this government is funding would certainly think you are purposefully censoring good news so that the handful of bad news stories appear to reflect the norm.

      • But there’s a problem here. If people only read your blog and similar sources, they will come away with a heavily distorted picture of the reality in Venezuela.

        It’s not a journalistic failure to provide context. How many supermarkets opened by the government are still operating with full shelves? Surely many hundreds, no?

        • ‘Balanced journalism’ doesn’t exist nor should it. Read this blog for an oppo point of view, read AVN, watch VTV, Aporrea etc. for the government’s point of view and then make up your own mind.

        • Is it heavily distorted to say that most private companies taken over by the government have become largely unproductive and corrupt? The blog is clearly focusing on how the wave of nationalization has actually hurt most of the customer of the companies and its employees, thats not a distorted fact, its the reality in most cases(Agroisleña, Conferry, Exito, Siderúrgica y Empresas Básicas, Electricidad de Caracas y pare usted de contar)
          .Regarding PDVAL and the companies created by the government that were not private before this is not related to the main idea being discussed by the post, that expropriations are not helping anyone. (And about PDVAL, its accountability and effectiveness and how it has hurt the effectiveness PDVSA they could write another post that you wouldn’t like either )

        • Well if there are economic stats showing scarcity of basic food items available to the population. If one of the largest distributor of these goods are state chains, it is reasonable to assume that this particular supermarket is more of a rule than an exception.

    • I mean, it isn’t news that a government announces a program and carries it out with minimal efficiency and transparency. That’s supposed to be normal, the basic thing we’re entitled to expect, right?

      But anyway, if you have a project or two in mind, do share…

      • Yes, do tell. What great projects have been a success?
        I live here & can’t think of any?

        Roads, hospitals, schools, electricity, agriculture, manufacturing, petroleum, aluminium, steel, iron, cement, exchange control, price fixing, jobs, tourism, housing, bridges, etc., etc. – all are total failures.

        The thing is you now won’t answer when faced with reality. So YoYo or Arturo or whatever do tell what projects in 14 years have been a success & not just some empty show.

      • Yeah, you cover all the bridges that collapse in Venezuela. What about the bridges that don’t collapse? Every day, there are hundreds of bridges that don’t collapse in Venezuela, yet you do not cover this, you are very bias!! Also the PDVAL often has milk and powdered milk available these days, but you also do not cover this!!! Futhermore, what about all the people who are not murdered? That should get equal coverage as people murdered.

  2. Yoyo,

    This blog is not supposed to be the only source of news. We try to provide analysis and context about the gaps we see in Venezuela’s public sphere, the things that remain unsaid. There are plenty of outlets where the government can highlight their “successes” … such as erradicating illiteracy in Venezuela (JA!) or increasing our food sovereignty (double JA!). They don’t need us for that.

    • I always teeter between shock and horror when – as sporadically happens – someone tells me “I get all my news about Venezuela from your blog!” They mean to be complementary, I guess, but I find it appalling. It’s like a Cruise Captain bragging that he learned everything he knows about Navigation from watching Gilligan’s Island…

      • I’d wager that for some, getting news about Vz from your blog is not complementary.

        Which goes to show that … Vz no es el único país de comiquitas.

  3. I am always surprised at what Chavez supporters think is a defense of the regime.

    “Many supermarkets have food” is not an okay standard of accomplishment in a modern country, especially one with oil wealth.

    • There are lots of people not being murdered every day in Venezuela. Only a bias person like you can ignore this accomplishment of the revolution.

      • News headline of the day: “Twenty-Nine Million (-20 Thousand Murdered/100,000 Injured) Weren’t Murdered/Injured In Peaceful Venezuela Last Year”. “Our next several months’ editions will show our readers the happy faces of the remaining survivors (if they can keep surviving by then)”….

  4. I can just see it! Chavez boasting that the Revolution has assured citizens that some milk will be available, that certain people were not murdered and that Venezuela found some oil. LMAO!!! A few $billion in oil revenue has brought all of this to you due to my glorious management of the fatherland

  5. oops,,,almost forgot. We borrowed a few dollars from the Chineese on extremely favorable terms. Because we now have all these extra funds, I have decided to increase our donation,,,um excuse me,,,our distribution of oil to Cuba. And,,,we bought a really nice, shinny , almost new tank for the defense of the Fatherland. As soon as we get a few more loans, we are going to buy parts for our new acquisition. I have just learned that the tank has been sabotaged by the empire and does not run currently. I will immediately create a new minister to oversea the polishing of the shinny, almost new tank so that when it becomes operative, we can show it off in a military parade that I will schedule in the near future. I have created a new ministry to organize the parade that will be held in the future to honor those who have made sacrifices for the Revolution. Everyone will take the day off with pay in order to partiicipate in the celebration.

  6. –and you, Garcia Lorca, what
    were you doing down by the watermelons?

    Apologies for changing the subject. I saw the headline and Allen Ginsburg jumped right off the screen. Like those headlines.

  7. Chavez opening a big supermarket in a cadena is kind of devalued and really third-worldish. Think of it, it is only a big supermarket.
    Six years ago at least there where opening botched Metros in Valencia in Maracaibo…
    A lot of development to show in the last presidential period; good to know Fonden is there for us.

    • This government is such a complete failure.
      If the question gets out he just ends up insulting or brow beating the reporter.
      Of course it’s hard to answer lies.

      • well, he couldn’t brow-beat AFP’s rep who so ‘contundentemente’ laid out the facts, without making a fool of himself, internationally. The audio failure was a perfect cover-up.

  8. A couple of years ago I visited the big supermarket that used to be called EXITO in Valencia and now in the hands of the Government. The experience was pathetic and kind of sad. The once continuously full parking lot was now almost empty. Once inside the store, the bad experience continued with semi-empty shelfs, some of the aisles had merchandise scattered on the floor, I noticed fake Polo brand shirts on racks, and some of the food inside the sparse meat and poultry refrigerators looked questionable, to put it politely.

    Infrastructure accomplishments? Well, the international airport in Maiquetía is pretty nice inside the boarding area, but at the price of a huge picture of Chávez greeting you on the wall of the immigration hall.


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