‘We want food!’ Loot­ing and ri­ots rock Venezuela daily

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

CARA­CAS—A young woman faints in the heat as hun­dreds fight for pasta, scream­ing they are hun­gry. Slum-dwellers and armed gangs wait for night­fall to hi­jack food trucks or ran­sack stores. A mother is shot dead flee­ing po­lice af­ter hun­dreds storm ware­houses.

Food ri­ots and vi­o­lent loot­ing have be­come a daily oc­cur­rence across scarci­tys­truck Venezuela and a ma­jor prob­lem for the strug­gling left­ist gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro.

De­spite hours in lines, Venezue­lans in­creas­ingly find that cov­eted sup­plies of sub­si­dized flour and rice run out be­fore they can buy them. Many are skip­ping meals, get­ting by on man­goes stripped from trees - or tak­ing mat­ters into their own hands.

On a re­cent morn­ing in the run­down, garbage-strewn Cara­cas district of El Valle, some 200 peo­ple pushed up against po­lice guard­ing a su­per­mar­ket as they chanted, “We want food!” and “Loot it!” A few at the front were al­lowed in for two bags of pasta each.

“We’re not eat­ing. Peo­ple are des­per­ate for a loot­ing,” said­mother-of-three Miza Col­menares, 55, who had spent the night in line and not eaten since the pre­vi­ous day when she had eggs for break­fast.

One young woman fainted in the heat, an el­derly lady cried un­con­trol­lably on the side­walk and the seething crowd chased away a gov­ern­ment sup­porter.

Su­per­mar­kets have be­come flash­points across Venezuela, one of the world’s most vi­o­lent coun­tries.

More than 10 loot­ings oc­cur every day now, ac­cord­ing to the Venezue­lan Ob­ser­va­tory of Vi­o­lence, and are in­creas­ing in the usu­ally more in­su­lated cap­i­tal.

More than a quar­ter of the 641 protests last month were for food, ac­cord­ing to a tally by the Venezue­lan Ob­ser­va­tory of So­cial Con­flict, a fig­ure that has risen every month this year.

Venezuela’s angry streets are ar­guably a big­ger threat for Maduro than the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion, which is push­ing to re­move him via a re­call ref­er­en­dum this year. One re­cent food protest came within blocks of the Mi­raflo­res pres­i­den­tial palace.

It is a re­mark­able turn­around for a gov­ern­ment which prided it­self on so­cial wel­fare pro­grams such as Cuban-staffed med­i­cal posts and sub­si­dized su­per­mar­kets. It won elec­tions time-and-time again thanks to de­voted sup­port from Venezuela’s poor.

But with their beloved for­mer pres­i­dent, Hugo Chavez, dead for three years and the econ­omy de­te­ri­o­rat­ing rapidly, many for­mer “Chav­is­tas” have turned on Maduro. “Be­hind all this is the pres­i­dent, the rat in his palace, eat­ing riches while we fight to buy pasta,” said home­maker Maria Perez, 31, once a Chavez sup­porter, at the El Valle su­per­mar­ket.

Maduro ac­cuses the op­po­si­tion of hoard­ing food to stoke un­rest, an ar­gu­ment con­vinc­ing fewer and fewer peo­ple.

When So­cial­ist Party com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer Pe­dro Gon­za­lez, 58, told a Reuters re­porter the un­rest at El Valle was “or­ches­trated by the coun­try’s op­po­si­tion,” he was chased away by angry by­standers.

The op­po­si­tion says the gov­ern­ment’s dis­torted cur­rency con­trols and crum­bling state-led eco­nomic sys­tem are to blame.

“HOODED AND ARMED” For months now, groups have ran­sacked de­liv­ery trucks that crash or suf­fer flat tires. But in re­cent weeks, there has been an in­crease in frus­trated shop­pers storm­ing su­per­mar­kets af­ter food runs out as well as cases of com­mu­ni­ties or armed gangs or­ga­niz­ing loot­ings, some­times re­port­edly to re-sell the goods.

In the small road­side town of Tacu­ato in the re­mote Paraguana penin­sula late last month, res­i­dents and delin­quents frus­trated af­ter spend­ing the night in line for no food de­cided to loot the next pass­ing truck.— Reuters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.