Protests Over Food Shortages in Venezuela Leave Three Dead in a Week

All three suffered suffered gunshot wounds during chaotic scenes outside supermarkets, which have become a flashpoint for violence and looting sparked by desperation at the shortage of basic goods in the crisis-torn country.
June 13, 2016, 6:56pm
Imgen por Ariana Cubillos/AP Images

The recent wave of lootings and food riots in crisis-hit Venezuela has left three people dead in the last week, authorities and a rights group said.

The state prosecutor's office is investigating the deaths of a 21-year-old man in the state of Sucre on Saturday, another 21-year-old man in the Caracas slum of Petare on Thursday, and a 42-year-old woman in the western state of Táchira last Monday.

All three suffered gunshot wounds during chaotic scenes outside supermarkets, which have become a flashpoint for violence and looting amid scarcities of basics across the South American OPEC-member country, according to local rights group Provea.

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Venezuela's economic crisis, which includes rampant inflation and chronic shortages of subsidized goods, has triggered a wave of food riots in recent weeks.

More than 10 incidents of looting are occurring daily, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a local monitoring group.

With basics such as flour and rice running short, crowds chanting "We want food!" are thronging supermarkets daily. Other incidents have involved storming government food trucks or stores.

The police response also appears to be getting more extreme.

A policeman has been arrested over the death of Jenny Ortiz in Táchira near the border with Colombia. She died from wounds she received when police shot into a crowd of hundreds that was breaking into a government warehouse.

Related: Venezuela in Crisis: Families Are Fed Up With Going Hungry

The food protests, the violence associated with them, and botched police efforts to contain them, represent a major problem for the struggling leftist government of President Nicolás Maduro.

Maduro is currently dealing with an effort by Venezuela's political opposition to force a recall referendum to remove him from office. The electoral authorities are currently revising 1.3 million signatures that the opposition gathered on its petition in favor of a referendum.

Maduro, who won the 2013 presidential election to replace his mentor and the founder of Venezuela's so-called Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chávez, has accused the opposition of stirring up trouble and seeking a coup.

Related: Venezuela's Government Says Petition to Recall Unpopular President Maduro is Tarnished by Fraud

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