A Starving Revolution: ID Cards and Food Rationing in Bolivarian Venezuela

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Jose Ragas


In this essay, I examine the controversy around the “Carnet de la Patria,” a national identity card issued in Venezuela in December 2016. I argue that this ID card belongs to a larger project of surveillance and regulation of identity developed by the Bolivarian Revolution and implemented by the late Hugo Chavez and continued by current president Nicolas Maduro. Amid its worst economic crisis, the government claims that the new ID card will allow citizens a better access to goods from supermarkets, replacing the fingerprint system (“captahuella”) that provoked massive protests in 2014. Opponents to this document have highlighted the parallel with the cards that exist in Cuba (“ration books”), and the manipulation of the database system to benefit only those who support the government and are already registered in previous official databases. The Venezuelan case provides an intriguing scenario that defies the regional region addressed to provide personal cards to undocumented groups. It also provides valuable comparative lessons about the re-emergence of surveillance technology and identity cards in modern authoritarian regimes.

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Author Biography

Jose Ragas, Cornell University

Andrew M. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Associate
Department of Science & Technology Studies
Cornell University


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