Photos from inside Venezuela have shown people participating in mass looting as a means of survival, including stealing entire vending machines and carrying them through the streets.
The recent bout of looting took place this week in Maracay, the capital of Aragua state, with images showing men carrying vending machines as well as what appears to be a refrigerator down a road with the aid of motorbikes.
— Jothe Grimes. (@Jothedor) June 27, 2017
Other images show people emptying supermarkets, bakeries, butcher shops and pharmacies of their products, as well as setting fires and smoke bombs as people run through the streets.
“The serious situation continues in various areas of #Maracay, people looting fridges to alcohol in various stores,” photojournalist Andrews Abreu wrote on Twitter.
— Andrews Abreu (@AndrewsAbreu) June 27, 2017
According to witnesses on the ground, one man was shot and killed by police, while a soldier was also killed while attempting to control the situation.
The problem of looting has been widespread in Venezuela since the country’s descent into economic collapse, precipitated by nearly two decades of socialist rule. A study conducted last September found that a majority of people go to bed hungry, while 15 percent of people are forced to eat garbage just to survive. There are also mass shortages of basic resources such as medicine, sanitary products, and electricity, many of which are sold at extortionate prices on the black market.
In February 2017, the Venezuela’s Living Conditions Survey found that 75 percent of Venezuelans had lost about 8.5kg (19lbs) in 2016, 82.8 percent of Venezuelans were living in poverty, 93 percent cannot afford food, and approximately one million Venezuelan school children do not attend school “due to hunger and a lack of public services.”
Police and media have documented dozens of looting incidents across Venezuela, which include starved residents of Carabobo emptying a truck of powdered milk and supporters of former leader Hugo Chávez’s regime brawling over a bag of onions.
In December of last year over 300 people including four police officers were arrested for looting, amid the government’s failure to provide banknotes of higher denomination. Both the police and the military, who remain the safeguard of the Maduro government, have also been caught stealing from trucks transporting products across the Venezuelan-Colombian border.
Twelve people were also killed in April after being electrocuted as they attempted to loot a bakery in Caracas in the deprived area of El Valle in the east of Caracas.
Just this week, thieves stole communion artifacts from the Santa Rosa de Lima church in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, in what appeared to be an act of both larceny and desecration.