In a harrowing story highlighting the growing hunger rates in socialist Venezuela, the family of a five-year-old boy has filed charges against a 16-year-old who allegedly asked the young child for sex in exchange for an arepa, a traditional Venezuelan corn bread.
The child, not understanding what the word “sex” meant, eagerly said yes at the prospect of being fed and returned home severely injured. He told his grandmother what happened and police arrested the perpetrator.
The incident, first reported by local outlet El Pitazo, reportedly occurred in northwestern Falcón state. The rapist is currently in detention, though it is not clear whether he will be charged as an adult.
The horrific event is reminiscent of a similar rape in Venezuela, in which a ten-year-old raped and asphyxiated a two-year-old girl. The incident occurred after the toddler’s mother left the girl alone on a beach to go drinking with some friends. The ten-year-old had allegedly also shown signs of being sexually abused. No family members appeared to pick up the toddler’s body when she was found for hours until “an inebriated woman” came forward.
The difference between the two crimes is that, in the more recent incident, a child was vulnerable to abuse while out rummaging for food. Due to extreme socialist price controls on imports and mass nationalization of farms, Venezuela is running out of food, with the opposition-controlled legislature declaring a “nutritional emergency” earlier this year. Venezuela’s food supply is now controlled by the military, and looting and riots by individuals looking to feed their families have become a common occurrence.
The crisis is profoundly affecting Venezuela’s youth. In a video surfacing on social media this week, children and their parents can be seen looting a bakery, leaving it empty of its stocks within minutes. Many of the victims of violence in supermarket lines and during lootings are children, like 17-year-old Jean Paul Omaña, killed in central Mérida state during a riot that broke out when a supermarket’s staff told a crowd they had run out of milk.
As of June, a study found that 90 percent of Venezuelans do not have enough money to buy the food they need to survive. A family of five in the country would need 18 minimum wage salaries for the money necessary to feed itself.
“For the past year, coffee and milk have been luxuries for me, but the truly scary shortages – of things like bread and chicken – only came to my middle-class home this year,” Venezuelan Carlos Hernandez writes in the Nuevo Herald. “One week I had to brush my teeth with salt.”
Before the current food shortage, it was political violence that threatened the lives of Venezuelan children the most. The most prominent victim of police violence against anti-socialists was 14-year-old Kluiverth Roa, shot to death walking home from school by Bolivarian National Guard police.
While most of Venezuela’s society is on the brink of famine, one social group remains immune to the shortages: the wealthy Venezuelan socialist elite, whose Caracas supermarkets remain stocked and country clubs up and running. “Should we stop enjoying ourselves just because the country is burning?” a Venezuelan golfer told the Daily Mail in June.