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Venezuela sends in the army to deal with food shortage protesters

The stepped up military presence in the coastal city of Cumaná comes the day after 400 people were arrested during protests over food shortages and looting that spun out of control.
Imagen por Miguel Gutiérrez/EPA

Venezuela's military has taken control of security in the coastal city of Cumaná after the latest bout of looting and food riots that led to the arrest of 400 people, many of them minors.

Violence engulfed the Caribbean city on Tuesday as looters swarmed over 60 shops after a rally of protesters demanding food got out of control.

Milagros Paz, an opposition legislator from the area, told reporters on Wednesday that one person died and 25 people were injured in the clashes. Unconfirmed social media reports have claimed there were several deaths.


Sucre's governor, however, said that none of the alleged deaths were related to the unrest, at the same time as he announced a ban on the use of motorcycles in the city for the next three days.

"There were only 400 people arrested and the deaths were not linked to the looting," Luis Acuña, from the ruling Socialist Party, told Globovisión. The governor blamed the violence on vandals paid to wreak havoc by right-wing politicians.

With desperate crowds of people chanting "We want food!," protests and melees at shops have spread across Venezuela in recent weeks, fueled by severe shortages. Three people were shot dead in separate incidents last week, with a policeman and a soldier arrested in two cases.

According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, more than 10 incidents of looting are occurring daily across the nation of 30 million people that is suffering a brutal recession and the world's highest rate of inflation.

Venezuela's political opposition says President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez are to blame for failed socialist economic policies. The opposition is pursuing a recall referendum this year in an effort to remove him from office.

Video of the moment when protesters in Cumaná break into a store. (Video via YouTube)

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