President Nicolás Maduro’s government has begun dismantling price controls, a major policy shift that aims to ease widespread unrest by letting shops sell food at market prices, reports The Wall Street Journal.
What began as a limited experiment in March in western Zulia state, which borders Colombia, has since been rolled out to six other border states, according to ruling-party governors and interviews with supermarket owners and shoppers across the country. One of the governors says plans are afoot to extend the program to the capital, Caracas, where food riots recently broke out just outside the presidential palace.
“Before there was nothing; now there’s everything,” said Jesús Barrios, 36, as he shopped in Maracaibo, the state capital of Zulia, according to WSJ.
“At least I can come in and buy, even if at high cost,” said Ana Atencio, a nurse who came in after her shift to get some sugar for her baby’s milk. “Before, I wouldn’t even dream of it because of the line and people fighting.”
In cities where the controls have been lifted, including Maracaibo and Puerto Ordaz, the long lines of shoppers that snaked outside every store have shortened. Looting of markets and food trucks—a daily occurrence just a few months ago—were down one-third nationwide in August from a May high, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, a nonprofit group---another free market miracle.