Biometrics and the police state

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Venezuela, sliding further into Cuban-like totalitarian Communism, faces severe food shortages. Take a look at the lines at a food distribution center:

What next?
Venezuela Proposes Fingerprinting Grocery Shoppers

President Nicolas Maduro says a mandatory fingerprinting system is being implemented at grocery stores to combat food shortages by keeping people from buying too much of a single item. He calls it an “anti-fraud system” like the fingerprint scan the country uses for voting.

In a country where accusations of electoral fraud have plagued several elections, that’s almost risible, but I digress.

Questions of where the broke and corrupt regime will find the funds to equip and maintain the machines to scan fingerprints at every grocery store (considering it’s not maintaining the government-owned oil producing monopoly, PDVSA) aside, the issue is that of control, and failure. Failed governments are really good at only one thing: controlling and oppressing the people. Juan Cristobal Nagel writes of a Venezuelan facing onerous currency controls while visiting him abroad:

Watching this hero of mine, this towering figure from my youth, reduced to going from one ATM to another trying to see if “pasó la tarjeta,” if their card was actually working, kind of broke my heart. It brought home the inherent perversity of a system like Cadivi. He couldn’t really enjoy his vacation, because he was always worried that he wouldn’t be able to pay off his hotel bill, his car rental, his incidentals. You never knew when the government would pull the plug on your financial independence, when they would revoke the permission to use your money wherever you please.

You, my gentle reader, may wonder, what doe this have to do with you, who may not even have met a Venezuelan, let alone been to the country, in your whole life?

Well, let’s go back to Nagel’s post (emphasis added):

Sometimes, you give up your freedoms because you have to, because they are taken away from you. That is the case in Venezuela. But the least you can do is be mindful of it. This thing from last night? It’s just the corollary of what you’ve been subjected to.

Here in the U.S. we’re not as complacent with the concept of “you give up your freedoms because you have to, because they are taken away from you”; but first we must be mindful.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.