Venezuelans Are So Desperate for Food That They're Looting Supermarkets

On Friday, one person was found dead from a gunshot wound to the chest and a dozen others were arrested after a mob allegedly looted four supermarkets in Bolívar.

by Javier Cabral
Aug 3 2015, 8:30pm

Shopping for groceries in Ciudad Guyana, Bolívar, Venezuela? Don't forget your shopping list—and for that matter, your bulletproof vest too.

While you were sluggishly getting up for work last Friday morning, one person was found dead from a gunshot wound to the chest and a dozen others were arrested after a mob allegedly looted four supermarkets in Venezuela's southeastern city, reports the Associated Press.

READ: Venezuelan Food Shortages Are Adding to the Chaos

These acts of hunger-induced public desperation (or crime, depending on your current financial situation, or your ability to sympathize with the opening scene in Les Miserables) come amid a nationwide social uprising against government-issued food rationing in country that has even more oil than Saudi Arabia.

Despite its rich deposits of the world's most prized resource, it appears that basic staples like cooking oil and flour are practically as good as gold in Venezuela. The worst part is that there is no clear-cut (or at least, public) reason why the citizens of such an oil-rich country are experiencing worsening shortages of toilet paper, rice, and coffee. However, it is a safe bet that the government-enforced warehouse seizure of Venezuela's largest food distributor, Polar, which distributes all brands owned by Nestlé, is definitely not helping the current dire situation.

It gets grimmer still. Earlier this year, we reported that some supermarkets in Venezuela even started implementing measures like fingerprint scanners at the cash register in efforts to thwart the totally rational human tendency of hoarding food during tough times like these.

READ: Venezuela Wants to Put Fingerprint Scanners in Grocery Stores

Venezuela's government appears to be oblivious to the current starvation plaguing the South American country. The governor of Bolívar, Francisco Rangel, went as far as completely dispelling the widely apparent food shortages. Additionally, he was quick to accuse the dozen looters of having "political motives" as the country's legislative elections loom in December. He also blamed the United States for being behind it.

"No one is starving," Rangel said.

Which might just be the truth, since Venezuela was recognized for its exceptional progress towards reducing its malnutrition rate by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States in 2013. Although, this recognition may have has less to do with the actual government and more to do with do with Venezuela's black market for smuggled foods—an economy made possible by Venezuela's bachaqueros, the scalpers of the grocery world that hoard goods such as milk powder and toilet paper and resell them at outrageous markups.

Still, grocery shopping is now truly a danger zone in the South American nation. When you buy your Charmin at the corner store, be thankful you didn't have to take a bullet for it.

south america
food politics
Francisco Rangel