MS Risk Blog

Hundreds Arrested in Northern Venezuela for Looting in Food Shortage

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Venezuelan police have arrested more than 400 people in the city of Cumana after street looting over food shortages. Over 100 shops were hit and at least one person died during the incidents. Another death was also reported in the state of Merida from unrest which is breaking out sporadically across the country. Local authorities said that these incidents were inspired by a right-wing faction within the country’s opposition.

Food and medicine are in short supply and street protests and lootings have increased drastically. According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a local monitoring group, more than 10 incidents of looting are occurring daily across the nation of 30 million people, which is suffering a deep recession and the world’s highest rate of inflation at 180%. Roberto Briceno Leon, director of the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, said the lootings were going to continue because there was hunger. Briceno Leon also said that the government’s response was insufficient and politicized, so people were resorting to robbery.

Earlier this month, Venezuelan security forces fired teargas at protesters chanting “We want food!” near Caracas’ presidential palace. Hundreds of Venezuelans heading for Miraflores palace in downtown Caracas were met by National Guard and police who blocked a major road. President Nicolas Maduro had been scheduled to address a rally nearby.

Venezuela is also facing a severe electricity shortage. In April, President Nicolas Maduro decided to shorten the workweek to two days in an effort to save energy and electricity. El Guri dam, the country’s most important source of electricity, has record-low water levels.

Venezuela’s political opposition says President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez are to blame for failed economic policies. The opposition is pursuing a recall referendum this year in an effort to remove President Maduro from office. Last Tuesday, Venezuelan police fired rubber bullets and tear gas grenades at students from the public Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, who demonstrated in demand of a referendum on removing Maduro.

But the government says the shortages are part of an economic war being waged to drive President Nicolas Maduro from office. Government officials say there is not enough time this year to organise a referendum. To avoid the threat of unrest associated with long food lines, the government has assigned neighbourhood committees linked to the ruling socialist party to distribute food. The move has angered the opposition, who equate it to an attempt to force loyalty among Venezuelans.

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