A priest in Venezuela has requested that Christians in his country separate their food waste from other garbage and label it to help starving Venezuelans find waste to eat without having to dig through noxious inedible garbage.
The call for such compassion from the wealthiest Venezuelans follows a year in which most citizens of the socialist country lost an average of 19 pounds due to severe food shortages exacerbated by dictator Nicolás Maduro’s full control and politicization of the nation’s food reserves.
Father Jose Palmar, a vocal opponent of Maduro’s and the Socialist Party’s, requested that his peregrines pack food waste and label it “food,” separating it from other garbage. “Try to preserve food waste so that people who eat out of garbage cans can praise the Lord,” he wrote on Twitter.
CUARESMA ACTIVA EN VENEZUELA. Trata que los desechos de alimentos se puedan conservar para que los que comen de la basura den Gloria a Dios. pic.twitter.com/tCo3dK3Y9T
— Padre José Palmar (@PadreJosePalmar) February 27, 2017
Palmar used the occasion of Lent — a period in which Catholics observe the forty days before Easter — to call for deeper compassion for those starving in the nation.
Almorzando con un indigente me dijo: “Las sobras de comida ya no las botan en el aseo, la misma gente busca el desperdicio en los negocios”.
— Padre José Palmar (@PadreJosePalmar) March 6, 2017
On Monday, Palmar noted that someone he described as “an indigent” told him that feeding himself by digging through garbage has become more difficult in recent days. Most who survive eating from scraps in garbage — an estimated 15 percent of Venezuelans — look through industrial waste in the back of food markets and restaurants. Palmar quotes the person he spoke with as saying: “they are not throwing food leftovers away anymore, the same people [employees] are digging through their own business waste.”
Markets in Venezuela have been suffering severe shortages for years, as the Bolivarian “revolution” of late dictator Hugo Chávez resulted in the mass expropriation of businesses that had previously processed the food, and Maduro’s economic policies make importing food nearly impossible. With supermarket shelves nearly constantly empty, Venezuelans have resorted to digging through supermarket waste for food too spoiled to legally sell.
A nationwide study found that 75 percent of Venezuelans lost an average of 19 pounds in 2016. 93 percent of respondents said it was impossible for them to purchase enough food to ensure three meals a day in their homes. 32 percent of Venezuelans said they eat two meals or more a day.
In addition to foraging in waste, Venezuelans in more tropical regions have taken to defying environmental laws and eating endangered animals. According to a Panamerican Post report, “dogs, cats, donkeys, horses, doves… flamingos,” and other tropical animals have become the latest victims of the nation’s impending famine. Some Venezuelan families have also resorted to selling their children in order to ensure that both they and their children are fed.
Maduro has responded to the food shortage by consolidating the Socialist Party’s power over the food supply. In July 2016, Maduro ordered that the nation’s entire food supply be put under the control of the military for distribution. To ensure that food remains in socialist hands, Maduro established the local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP). Party members who work locally to distribute food aid packages are given full discretion on who they choose to receive the government aid.
CLAP opponents protested that putting food in partisan hands would have a chilling effect on the opposition, as families who feared not receiving the food they need would not risk upsetting the Party by participating in opposition rallies and other activities.