(Andre F. Puglie) Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro plans to nationalize food distribution amid his country’s record shortages of basic goods, runaway inflation and escalating economic instability, Agence France-Presse reported.
The socialist leader, speaking on Friday at an International Workers’ Day rally, announced his intention to use his decree-making powers to carry out the measure “in the coming days and weeks.” Earlier in the week, he had already pledged additional economic reforms.
Maduro was responding to a union leader who had suggested the takeover at the May 1 event.
“(We propose) to nationalize the distribution of food and essential items by presenting, within 30 days, a project to build a transportation company that prevents the hoarding, rerouting of products and their smuggling outside of our country,” the unnamed representative said, according to Agence France-Presse.
The president told her such a project was already in the works.
“I have the law ready, so that we can, in the coming days and weeks, assume the responsibility that this worker, this woman, has given us,” Maduro responded.
The nationalization plans come only days after the Venezuelan government implemented a medicine-rationing system it hopes will ease shortages that have left many patients unable to treat ailments from hemorrhoids to cancer, according to Global Post.
Under the national Integral System for Access to Medicines (SIAMED) scheme, Venezuelans who wish to buy drugs will be required to register their fingerprints at pharmacies and will only be permitted to acquire limited amounts.
“As we document these problems in countries around the world, we have rarely seen access to essential medicines deteriorate as quickly as it has in Venezuela except in war zones,” Diederik Lohman, Human Rights Watch’s associate health and human rights director, wrote about the situation in the Washington Post.
Late last year, Venezuela introduced a mandatory fingerprinting system in grocery stores to keep people from buying too much of any single item, Time recalled. At the time, food shortages had already plagued the country for over a year, and basic cooking items, such as oil and flour, were scarce.