Pictures have emerged of the Venezuelan military presenting soldiers with toilet paper rolls in what appears to be a reward for their loyalty.
“Is handing our soldiers personal hygiene products supposed to be a Maduro and [Defense Minister] Padrino victory, that they then show off? They do not respect the Armed Forces!” Venezuela opposition leader Henrique Capriles wrote in a tweet on Sunday.
Es acaso un "logro" de Maduro y Padrino entrega a nuestros soldados de artículos higiene personal y además mostrarlo?No respetan la FANB! pic.twitter.com/ham5Zv4n9j
— Henrique Capriles R. (@hcapriles) July 22, 2017
Capriles, who currently serves as the governor of Miranda and ran against socialist president Nicolas Maduro in 2014, is one of the most prominent critics of the Venezuelan government. Maduro banned him from standing in elections for fifteen years on unsubstantiated charges of drug trafficking.
The military was reportedly rewarding the soldiers for a “great job” in the past few days as they continue to use brutality, such as water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas to contain continued mass protests against the socialist government.
Soldiers were pictured shaking hands with a superior, who handed them a package that included toilet paper, toothpaste, and sanitary wipes.
The soldiers were likely grateful to receive the packages given Venezuela’s total economic collapse that has led to chronic shortages of sanitary products such as toilet paper and toothpaste, as well as other basic resources such as food, medicine, and electricity.
Inflation is expected to rise to 1500 percent by the end of the year, while the Venezuelan Bolivar has lost 99.9 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar since 2010.
Despite three minimum wage hikes in 2017, the minimum wage stands at 97,531 bolivars a month, which on Venezuela’s official exchange rate equates to around $65 a month but only holds a real market worth of $9.53.
Amid the crisis, members of the military and national guard have been caught exploiting their power to make ends meet. A report from the Associated Press in January found that the Venezuelan military had seized full control of all food coming in and out of the country and are reselling stolen products at astronomical markups.
The report also found authorities regularly demanded bribes from food importers and truck drivers, thus hiking the prices of food products for ordinary Venezuelans.
Opposition leaders have also alleged that security forces regularly steal possessions from protesters and journalists, such as motorcycles, cameras, and even shoes. Responding to the allegations, the country’s defense minister Vladimir Padrino López warned armed forces against bad behavior, saying he did not want to see “one more national guardsman committing an atrocity on the street.”
— Hannah Dreier (@hannahdreier) June 7, 2017