Venezuela: Food Shortage & Social Unrest

food shortageAs more and more American health stores stock aisles with the latest gluten-free products, countless Venezuelans patiently wait in front of closed grocery stores, infuriated by the worsening shortages of food and other basic goods.

Today, supermarkets in Venezuela are guarded by military personnel and police officers, who keep an eye on the snaky lines and make sure customers enter the stores according to their ID numbers, as required by the government.  

“I can’t get milk for my child. What are we going to do?” said Leida Silva, 54, breaking into tears outside the Latino supermarket in northern Maracaibo, where she arrived at 3 a.m. on a recent day.  

A national survey from The Wall Street Journal found that 30 percent of Venezuelans were eating two or fewer meals a day. 

food shortageThe country’s unrest can be largely contributed to dramatically worsening living conditions as the economy reels from oil’s slump.  Fox News Latino reports, “This explains why the government simply doesn’t have the cash to import food, medicines and other basic products that citizens demand. As the oil prices keep plumbing, the economic situation hits harder and harder across the country.”  

Furthermore, the country’s increased military surveillance is a direct result from the massive anti-crime police operation referred to as, “Operation People’s Liberation (OLP)”.  OLP was ordered by Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro as an attempt to combat crime in Venezuela, which is believed to have one of Latin America’s highest rates of violence and criminal activity.  The soldiers had been deployed to stem rampant food smuggling and price speculation, which Maduro blames for triple-digit inflation and scarcity.

The Venezuelan government estimates that 40% of subsidized good are lost to smugglers.  It says the scarcity of staples such as corn flour, milk and basic cosmetic items is in large part due to this illegal trade.  Critics of Mr. Maduro’s government, however, argue that the scarcity is down to mismanagement.

“People are carrying everything they can,” said a weeping Virgelida Serrano, a 60-year-old seamstress who has lived in Venezuela for more than a decade. “We’re going to Colombia to see what help the government gives us.”