Several weeks ago, when we showed dramatic scenes from a Venezuela looting in which countless people were wounded after 5,000 looters stormed a supermarket, looking for food...
... we said that at this rate it is only a matter of time before we get the first casualty of Venezuela's "social apocalypse."
Unfortunately this prediction came true today when Reuters reported that a Venezuelan woman died on Monday after being shot in the face when looters raided state food warehouses in the latest unrest in the crisis-hit OPEC nation. Relatives of hotel worker Jenny Ortiz, 42, said she died in hospital after being shot during the melee late on Sunday in San Cristobal, a town near the border of Colombia, where looting and anti-government protests have been occurring in recent months.
What makes this tragedy worse is that according to the victim's family, including her mother-in-law Carmen Rosa, 58, who said she saw the incident, that a policeman shot Ortiz.Authorities did not comment on that accusation, though local police said armed criminals had fired on police and an investigation was underway.
Jenny Ortiz de 49 años falleció anoche en saqueo en Carnes Venezuela, un PNB le disparo perdigones 1/2 pic.twitter.com/eRmTwriDlE— Stiphem Guerrero (@SYGuerrero1) June 6, 2016
"The warehouses were supposedly full of food and the people need food," Rosa told Reuters at the morgue where her daughter-in-law's corpse was taken, saying about 500 local residents had descended on the premises. When security forces chased some of the crowd after they broke in, "they jumped down a bank to protect themselves, and a policeman who was pursuing them shot her. They shot her in the face," she added.
Police officers and criminal investigators inspect the area where a woman was
shot when looters raided state food warehouses, in San Cristobal, Venezuela, June 6, 2016.
As we have reported over the past month, Venezuela has seen a rise in looting, lynchings and violent protests this year during a deepening economic crisis. There are shortages of food and other basics across the nation of 30 million people, and inflation is the highest in the world. While the opposition coalition blames socialist President Nicolas Maduro and is seeking a referendum to recall him, the government says political foes are fanning the crisis with an "economic war" and seeking a coup against him.
Vielma Mora, a ruling Socialist Party member who governs the state including San Cristobal, confirmed the woman's death and said it happened after several days of looting. "These are plans orchestrated by the right wing," he said. "We hope to capture the person responsible." Of course, if the person responsible is a police officer, the government will simply blame an innocent, starving scapegoat among the looters and that will be the end of it.
As Reuters adds, Venezuelans' patience is wearing thin as they skip meals, survive off yucca or mangoes, and grapple with supermarkets unable to provide food for lines that can stretch into the thousands.
There is no official data, but non-governmental group Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict reported 107 episodes of looting or attempted looting in the first quarter.
As long as Maduro's government remains in power, this tragic trend is unlikely to change, although in reality even with a government replacement, one fails to see just how the economic situation will rebound even over the medium term as a result of not just chronic corruption and crime at the highest levels of political power, but because the nation's coffers have effectively run dry which is paradoxical for the country which supposedly has the world's largest oil deposits.