Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to order markets to slash prices of food - an attempt to combat speculation and rampant inflation of the bolivar - has apparently backfired as mobs of hungry Venezuelans have started looting supermarkets and slaughtering cattle in the open to survive, Reuters reports.
Last week, we reported on near-riots that broke out in Caracas after the mandatory price cuts for food stoked widespread shortages as what little inventory that remained on market shelves quickly disappeared.
Venezuelans are suffering from a plethora of economic and social maladies.Four years of recession and an inflation rate approaching 4,000% by some measures have made the country’s currency practically worthless. Widespread shortages of food and medicine led to violent riots during the spring and early summer of 2017 that resulted in more than 100 deaths, including the burning alive of one suspected Maduro supporter by a crowd of citizens. Law enforcement in the capital and many of the country’s smaller cities has effectively disbanded, leading to a rise in lynchings and streets justice. Indeed, suspected thieves are sometimes killed.
Venezuela’s regime probably would’ve collapsed by now if it weren’t for the aide of Russia and China, which have lent the Maduro regime money in exchange for a discount on future oil deliveries. But now that the price of oil is finally climbing again, Maduro could find himself rescued by commodity markets. In apparent anticipation of higher oil prices, the administration announced late last year that it would finally introduce "the Petro” - a state-designed cryptocurrency that will help Venezuela’s customers pay for their goods while circumventing the petrodollar system.
In a shocking example of just how severe Venezuela’s food shortages have become, a video on social media showed roughly a dozen men running into a lush pasture, chasing a cow, and then apparently beating it to death for the meat.
"They're hunting. The people are hungry!" says the narrator of the video, who filmed the incident from his car. Lawmaker Paparoni said some 300 animals were believed to have been killed, though this hasn’t been independently confirmed.
Violent lootings and hijackings - long a staple of life for Venezuela’s remaining merchants - are also growing increasingly common.
Zuley Urdaneta, a 50 year-old vet in Merida, witnessed the looting of a truck along the highway around 2 pm Thursday afternoon, she told Reuters. About two hours later, he said some 800 people converged on a food collection center and proceeded to plunder it.
"They knocked down the gates and looted flour, rice, cooking oil, cooking gas," said Urdaneta. "The police and the National Guard tried to control the situation by giving out what was left."
Despite the grinding poverty and widespread social unrest that has challenged the last vestiges of Chavismo, Maduro has effectively sidelined his opposition while brutally suppressing popular uprisings.
"What we're living is barbaric," said opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido in a tweet referencing the slaughter the cattle. "The dehumanizing regime of Nicolas Maduro is turning a blind eye to the tragedy that we Venezuelans are living."
In a rare interview with western media published earlier this week, Maduro repeated his claim that the country’s economic collapse is the result of a conspiracy between his domestic political opponents and foreign powers like the CIA trying to foment an uprising and overturn what they perceive to be a hostile leftist regime.
The irony here, of course, is that the US and Venezuela had for years maintained a relatively peaceful and lucrative commercial relationship, evidenced by the success of Venezuela’s US subsidiary, Citgo. Even when former leader Hugo Chavez spewed anti-US rhetoric, he was behind the scenes cooperating with his purported imperialist foe.
Still, with supermarket shelves perennially empty and Treasury Department sanctions choking the regime off from the dollar-based global financial system, one can't help but wonder how much longer Maduro can hang on before an outright rebellion erupts.