Socialist Utopia: Venezuela’s Food Shortages Trigger Long Lines, Hunger and LootingPosted: August 27, 2015 | |
Violent clashes flare in pockets of the country as citizens wait for hours for basics, such as milk and rice.
“In past years, when oil prices were high, Venezuela’s leftist government flooded markets with subsidized goods ranging from cooking oil to diapers. It gave citizens in border towns like La Sibucara not only access to cheap supplies, but also a source of income as many people trafficked products—including nearly free gasoline—to neighboring Colombia, drawing handsome profits.”
The incident was just one of numerous violent clashes that have flared in pockets around the country in recent weeks as Venezuelans wait for hours in long supermarket lines for basics like milk and rice. Shortages have made hunger a palpable concern for many Wayuu Indians who live here at the northern tip of Venezuela’s 1,300-mile border with Colombia.
“We are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot.”
—María Palma, 55, of La Sibucara
The soldiers had been deployed to stem rampant food smuggling and price speculation, which President Nicolás Maduro blames for triple-digit inflation and scarcity. But after they seize contraband goods, the troops themselves often become targets of increasingly desperate people.
“Food-supply problems in Venezuela underscore the increasingly precarious situation for Mr. Maduro’s socialist government, which according to the latest poll by Datanálisis is preferred by less than 20% of voters ahead of Dec. 6 parliamentary elections.”
“What’s certain is that we are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot,” said María Palma, a 55-year-old grandmother who on a recent blistering hot day had been standing in line at the grocery store since 3 a.m. before walking away empty-handed at midday.
“If people aren’t outside protesting, they’re outside standing in line for goods.”
—Marco Ponce, head of the Venezuela Observatory of Social Conflict
In a national survey, the pollster Consultores 21 found 30% of Venezuelans eating two or fewer meals a day during the second quarter of this year, up from 20% in the first quarter. Around 70% of people in the study also said they had stopped buying some basic food item because it had become unavailable or too expensive.
“They’re committing treason against our country, taking food and crossing the border.”
—National Guard Gen. Manuel Graterol
Food-supply problems in Venezuela underscore the increasingly precarious situation for Mr. Maduro’s socialist government, which according to the latest poll by Datanálisis is preferred by less than 20% of voters ahead of Dec. 6 parliamentary elections. The critical situation threatens to plunge South America’s largest oil exporter into a wave of civil unrest reminiscent of last year’s nationwide demonstrations seeking Mr. Maduro’s ouster.
“It’s a national crisis,” said Marco Ponce, head of the Venezuela Observatory of Social Conflict, noting that unlike the political protests of last year, residents are now taking to the streets demanding social rights.
The nonprofit group recorded 500 protests over food shortages during the first half of 2015, 56 looting incidents and dozens of attempted lootings at grocery stores, pharmacies and warehouses. Even delivery trucks are frequently targeted. “If people aren’t outside protesting, they’re outside standing in line for goods,” Mr. Ponce said.
The unrest is a response to dramatically worsening living conditions for Venezuelans as the economy reels from oil’s slump following more than a decade of populist spending that left the government broke…(read more)
Write to Kejal Vyas at firstname.lastname@example.org
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