In Venezuela, looting and protests as famine threatens

A young Venezuelan waits for a food distribution carried out by the organization "Feeds Solidarity", in Caracas, on April 9.
A young Venezuelan waits for a food distribution carried out by the organization "Feeds Solidarity", in Caracas, on April 9. Ariana Cubillos / AP

This Friday 1er May, the Venezuelan minimum income will increase by more than 70%, reaching 4.66 dollars at the official exchange rate. Announced by the government of Nicolas Maduro on Monday April 27, the measure does not seem likely to calm the anger of the starving Venezuelans who, last week, protested and looted shops in several cities inside the country.

With the UN at the head, international observers are worried about the risks of famine that the fight against the Covid-19 poses on a country out of breath, even before the pandemic. The International Rescue Committee has placed Venezuela on the list of countries in "Double emergency", alongside Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and Burkina Faso. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not yet experienced an armed conflict, and the spread of the virus is still slow, according to official figures, which report, Wednesday, April 29, 329 cases diagnosed and 10 dead. But the country's economy is destroyed.

"Social explosion"

" We are hungry ", said the signs of the demonstrators who, in Araya, Los Teques, Cumana or Cumanacoa, were protesting against the high cost of living, the lack of gasoline, the water cuts and the incessant blackouts of electricity. These problems are not new in a country in recession for seven years. They took, with containment, a dramatic turn.

On the paradise and previously very touristic island of Margarita, an unoccupied hotel was looted. In Upata, in the southern department of Bolivar, the intervention of the police ended on Thursday April 23 with the death of a 29-year-old protester, shot twice in the head. " Die of hunger ", specifies an inscription on the pavement, where the young man fell. Seven of the country's 23 states have been affected by the attack.

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"Hunger is a more dangerous fuel than gasoline", reminds the Archbishop of Ciudad Bolivar, Mgr Ulises Gutiérrez, at the Catholic Information Agency. Comparing Venezuela to a "pressure cooker", he expresses his fear of "Unprecedented social explosion".

The shortage of gasoline affects the transportation of food. Infinitely rich in hydrocarbons, Venezuela has, since 2013, been faced with the drop in the price of a barrel and an unprecedented drop in its production, due to the mismanagement of the public oil company PDVSA, to corruption and the lack of investments. American sanctions further complicate his situation. Venezuela produces only 700,000 barrels a day.

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