Venezuela's Maduro sees popularity drop to 39 percent

As approval for president Maduro falls by 18 percent since last December, Venezuela plans to install biometric checks in supermarkets in a bid to stop government-subsidized goods from being smuggled out of the country.

Venezuela's Maduro sees popularity drop to 39 percent

World Bulletin / News Desk

Approval for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has dropped to 39 percent, according to a Hinterlaces poll released this week, a fall of 18 percent since January.

Hinterlaces chief Oscar Schémel told Venezuela television channel Globovisión that three-quarters of Venezuelans believe the country is on a "very bad path."

A previous poll in January put Maduro's approval rating at 57 percent. Maduro took office last March following the death of his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chávez.

"There is a climate of confusion, uncertainty, and very obvious discomfort among the Venezuelan population," Schémel told Globovisión.

Schémel said the opposition would have "an extraordinary opportunity" were elections to be held today.

The umbrella opposition party, however, known as the MUD, has shown little unity in recent months, and the pollster chief admitted 40 percent of the population were dismissive of government and opposition parties.

The new poll, taken Aug. 2-9, surveyed 1,200 people and had a margin of error of ±2.7 percent.

Fingerprints for food

The news of Maduro's growing unpopularity comes as officials announced the introduction of a new biometric system in supermarkets and food stores in a bid to stop government-subsidized goods from leaving the country.

The system is expected to stop individuals from purchasing too many of one item. Venezuela's Superintendent for Fair Prices, Andrés Eloy Méndez, said Thursday that the system would be installed by the end of November.

"On November 30, all supermarkets and hypermarkets in the country should have fingerprint readers, to verify the amount of purchases, and with this fair distribution and [a way to] attack smuggling," Venezuelan news site Noticias 24 reported.

Maduro labeled the move "an anti-fraud blessing" against those profiteering from the subsidized goods, but critics slammed the move, accusing the government of "communism" and introducing "rationing." Others have warned the system would breach privacy laws.

Venezuela is experiencing a month of nightly closures of its 2,200-kilometer border with Colombia to stop cheap food and fuel supplies from being smuggled out and sold for huge profits.

About 17,000 troops have been stationed along the porous border to stop an estimated 40 percent of subsidized goods from leaving. Thirteen people have been arrested and 136 tonnes of food seized since the anti-smuggling operation was launched Aug. 11, authorities announced this week.

Purported to have the world's biggest oil reserves, Venezuela allows its citizens to fill a medium-sized car's gas tank for less than US$1 under the government subsidies. The country has struggled, however, to maintain supplies of staples, and shop shelves have often been left empty.

Ugly scenes were witnessed in Caracas and a number of other cities earlier this year as increasing crime, rampant inflation and a lack of staple goods sparked anti-government protests.

Protesters demanded Maduro step down as they built barricades that blocked city streets and hurled stones and petrol bombs at security forces. The authorities responded with a brutal armed crackdown. The protests led to many arrests, including opposition politicians, and resulted in scores of deaths and injuries on both sides.

Schémel said, however, this week's poll suggests that the majority of citizens were keen for a constitutional answer to the political and economic crisis that has racked the South American nation.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Ağustos 2014, 10:07