Images of starved Venezuelans looking to feed their families by any means necessary have become increasingly commonplace as the nation’s socialist government continues to crash its economy. The most recent of these incidents involves surveillance video showing the swift mass looting of a bakery.
Both children and adults can be seen entering the bakery and taking large trays of bread and pastries out. The video lasts little more than three minutes before the crowd completes its looting, emptying both the display cases and refrigerators and leaving the bakery empty. The video surfaced online, shared by a number of Latin-American journalists from both Telemundo and Univisión.
— Alberto Rodríguez (@AlbertoRT51) August 16, 2016
Venezuela has been suffering an intense shortage of basic food goods for the past year, which has hit bakeries especially hard. Items like butter, flour, milk, and vegetable oil are in extremely short supply.
Venezuelan government officials have been unable to deny the shortages, instead blaming them on the United States’s “economic war” with Venezuela, which American officials do not acknowledge as a legitimate event. Officials have blamed the dire situation in bakeries on the opposition within the country, however, with Venezuela’s UN ambassador stating earlier this week that the lines at bakeries are artificially “induced” by reducing work hours.
Supermarkets have been particularly affected by the shortages. While President Nicolás Maduro imposed a ration card system years ago, forcing Venezuelans to limit the amount of food they buy only to what is approved by the government, supermarkets have been unable to restock their shelves in the past year, even in the nation’s capital, Caracas. In one of the most high-profile protests this year, a mob chanting “we want food” outside a Caracas supermarket attempted to march to the presidential palace in an unapproved protest.
The mob was stopped before arriving as Chavista government supporters beat journalists to discourage coverage of the event, but it was hardly the last similar incident. Groups of hungry Venezuelans have set food trucks on fire and killed each other waiting in supermarket lines.
In the first seven months of 2016, an NGO study found 537 recorded instances of looting and 662 protests demanding food nationwide — 22 protests a day. Including general violent crime, one study predicts 30,000 people will die in violent crime incidents in Venezuela by the end of 2016.
The protest was triggered by the sight of a truck carrying food, which civilians in line for hours could see was being emptied and distributed to Venezuelan soldiers. The shortages have become so intense, however, that even Chavista party loyalists have been affected. In April, for example, a video surfaced of a mob fighting over a bag of onions; one of the men in the video proudly displayed his Hugo Chávez tattoo while demanding the government do something to improve the situation.
A study published in June found that nearly 90 percent of Venezuelans do not have enough money to buy food. Even if they did, strict price and import controls have made it nearly impossible for a supermarket to keep itself stocked for customers.
President Maduro has repeatedly responded to the shortages by blaming the West generally, as well as reaching out to allies like China for loans. In the meantime, the President has asked Venezuelans to be self-sufficient regarding their food needs, noting that he has chicken coops from which he harvests eggs for his family.