Venezuelans ‘loot to eat’ amid economic tailspin


In this Jan. 23, 2018 photo, a youth moves quickly to collect grains of corn on the street that fell from a truck that was looted outside the port in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. At the country’s biggest port, people swarmed a corn-carrying truck and began filling up sacks with the grain while the driver was held at gunpoint. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

PUERTO CABELLO, Venezuela (AP) — The cab of Carlos Del Pino’s big rig gave him a nerve-rattling front-row seat to a surge in mob attacks on Venezuela’s neighborhood markets, cattle ranches and food delivery trucks like his.

Shortly after pulling away from the docks at Puerto Cabello, the country’s biggest port, he witnessed 20 people swarm a truck ahead of him and in a frenzy fill up their sacks with the corn it was carrying to a food-processing plant. The driver was held at gunpoint.

“It fills you with terror,” Del Pino said.

He has hauled cargo for 14 years, and on a good month earns the equivalent of about $100, enough to support his wife and two daughters. Yet, despite his fears, he sympathizes with his impoverished countrymen, who are becoming desperate amid Venezuela’s widespread food shortages and sky-high inflation.

“They have to loot to eat,” he said.

Sporadic looting, food riots and protests driven by the hungry poor have surged in Venezuela, a country that’s no stranger to unrest. But the uprisings playing out recently have a different face than the mostly middle-class protesters who took to the streets for months last year in political demonstrations trying to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

“These protests are coming from people of the lower classes who simply cannot get enough to eat,” said David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, who has spent decades researching Venezuela. “They want relief, not necessarily to force Maduro from power.”

Venezuela holds the world’s largest oil reserves and was once among Latin America’s wealthiest nations. But after nearly two decades of socialist rule and mismanagement of the state-run oil company, it is being battered by the worst economic crisis in its history.

The surge in violent food protests began in poor neighborhoods across the country around Christmas, when Maduro had promised that holiday hams were coming in government food baskets distributed to his supporters.

But many didn’t arrive, sparking protests with small groups burning garbage in the street and looting. Opposition pundits called it the “pork revolution.” Trying to bring calm, Maduro ordered hundreds of supermarkets to slash prices to the previous month’s level — a tall order in a country where prices have been doubling every few weeks.

Repeating a common refrain, the government blamed the absence of hams on sabotage by its foreign critics, in this case Portugal, which it said was taking orders from the U.S.

“Why didn’t the ham arrive? Because of the blockade against us,” socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello said on state TV, blaming the “gringos” but providing no evidence.

The unrest has cooled some, but many Venezuelans fear it will be a temporary lull as the economy spins further out of control. The International Monetary Fund estimates inflation will reach five digits this year, while the economy, in its fifth straight year of recession, will shrink 15 percent.

Barely solvent businesses say they are reluctant to import more goods, fearing another government-ordered fire sale. As the currency crashes on the flourishing black market, the monthly minimum wage is now worth the equivalent of just $3.

Financial sanctions imposed in August by the Trump administration are only adding to Venezuelans’ misery, choking off the country’s access to credit and scaring away oil companies.

Meanwhile, hunger is widespread.

Recently a dozen men stormed a street-side deli in the western city of Barquisimeto. Surveillance cameras captured them leaping over the glass counter as customers and employees scrambled out of the way. They wiped the store clean in minutes.

Cattle ranchers say at least two farms have been raided by people who slaughtered cows. A video on Twitter shows a dozen men in the state of Merida killing a cow with rocks and a machete, one shouting: “We are hungry.”

In the first half of January, there were at least 110 incidents of looting, more than five times than in the same period a year earlier, says the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, a non-governmental group that tracks unrest.

Food and the cash to pay for it are more difficult to find, especially outside the capital of Caracas. And even when people have money, prices are often beyond their reach, with the inflation rate soaring above 2,600 percent in 2017, the opposition- controlled National Assembly says.

Looting is part of a wider trend in hunger-related crimes, said Roberto Briceno Leon, director of the Caracas-based Venezuelan Observatory for Violence.

Street gangs are luring poor children as young as age 9 with food, he said. Standing in as a lookout during a burglary used to earn a recruit Nike shoes or Wrangler jeans. Now, they get a McDonald’s hamburger, he said.

Briceno Leon adds that some hungry people unable to buy groceries steal food by eating it inside stores. Men riding motorbikes increasingly yank bags of food away from customers who have stood in line for hours, spending what little money they had.

“It’s not just that you do not have money,” he said. “There’s little money to shop with and few products.”

Truckers hauling food — from rice to live chickens — have become targets while stopped in traffic or making a pit stop.

When the mob recently waylaid the truck in front of him, Del Pino rolled up his cab windows and locked the doors in fear the hungry mob would turn on him next.

He pulled his semi out of the line, dodging an attack.

“Here the problem is just that — hunger. Hunger is killing people,” Del Pino said.


Associated Press writer Scott Smith reported this story in Puerto Cabello and AP writer Fabiola Sanchez reported in Villa de Cura, Venezuela.

2 thoughts on “Venezuelans ‘loot to eat’ amid economic tailspin

  1. Hey, how’s it going?

    I want to pass along some very important news that everyone needs to hear!

    In December of 2017, Donald Trump made history by recognizing Jerusalem as the captial of Israel. Why is this big news? Because by this the Jewish people of Israel are now able to press forward in bringing about the Third Temple prophesied in the Bible.

    Jewish Rabbis have publicly announced that their Messiah will be revealed in the coming years who will be a leader and spiritual guide to all nations, gathering all religions under the worship of one God. They deny Jesus as their Messiah, and the Bible tells us this Jewish Messiah will be the counterfiet that will bring about a false peace, and ultimatley the great tribulation.

    They even printed a coin to raise money for the Temple with Donald Trumps face on the front and with king Cyrus'(who built the second Temple) behind him. On the back of the coin is an image of the third Temple.

    More importantly, the power that runs the world wants to put a RFID microchip in our body making us total slaves to them. This chip matches perfectly with the Mark of the Beast in the Bible, more specifically in Revelation 13:16-18:

    “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

    Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”

    Referring to the last days, this could only be speaking of a cashless society, which we have yet to see, but are heading towards. Otherwise, we could still buy or sell without the mark amongst others if physical money was still currency. This Mark couldn’t be spiritual because the word references two different physical locations. If it was spiritual it would just say in the forehead. RFID microchip implant technology will be the future of a one world cashless society containing digital currency. It will be implanted in the right-hand or the forehead, and we cannot buy or sell without it! We must grow strong in Jesus. AT ALL COSTS, DO NOT TAKE IT!

    “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11).

    People have been saying the end is coming for many years, but we needed two key things. One, the Third Temple, and two, the technology for a cashless society to fulfill the prophecy of the Mark of the Beast.

    Visit http://WWW.BIBLEFREEDOM.COM to see proof for these things and much more!

    If you haven’t already, it is time to seek God with all your heart. Jesus loves you more than you could imagine. He wants to have a relationship with you and redeem you from your sins. Turn to Him and repent while there is still hope! God bless!

Comments are closed.