The economic collapse in Venezuela has hit an all-new low in recent weeks, as the 30 million people living in the South American nation no longer have access to food and other basic supplies.
As Independent Journal Review (IJR) noted in May, the country resembles a “Godforsaken Hellscape” right now.
According to The New York Times, more than 50 food riots, protests and incidents of mass looting have erupted nationwide, resulting in scores of businesses being stripped bare or destroyed. At least five deaths have been attributed to the violent outbursts as well.
In order to get the most basic of supplies, Venezuelans have to line up:
…and line up:
…and line up some more. And that’s just for a few rolls of toilet paper:
…or a bag of flour:
In fact, there’s really no alternative, given that people are only allowed to shop at a grocery store twice a week.
It’s caused a ripple effect on other areas of life as well. According to The Associated Press, on any given day 40% of teachers in the country are in a ration line, and not the classroom, so they can get food and other supplies for their families.
Even medicines are being rationed by the government because they are in short supply:
It doesn’t help that many stores have already been destroyed by protesters and looters:
…leaving them without any supplies to sell:
Some Venezuelans are so hungry that they’re ransacking every store or restaurant they can find, forcing owners to close early or give away their supplies in order to avoid damage.
One restaurant owner in the coastal town of Cumaná, for example, offered to give hungry looters free chicken and rice if they agreed not to destroy her property. They took her food — and still trashed her place.
Ruben Saud, president of the Cumaná Chamber of Commerce, told the AFP:
“It ended in total ruin because the businesses had not only their stock pillaged but also their furniture. It was total destruction.”
Because there is so little food available, people have started looting the food rations being provided by the government:
…or cooking heavily-rationed meals that contain few nutrients:
Those who find themselves really desperate have even started eating dogs, cats, and pigeons:
Leidy Cordova, a 37-year-old woman with five young children, now prepares her growing children soups made from boiled chicken skin and fat — the only meal they would eat that day. She told the Times:
“My kids tell me they’re hungry. And all I can say to them is to grin and bear it.”
Added Vanessa Furtado, who despite having a brain tumor now finds herself having to skip meals so her cancer-ridden mother doesn’t have to:
“I used to be very fat, but no longer. We are dying as we live.”
With no end in sight, protesters have taken to the streets:
Some of the riots have even turned violent:
Already a militant nation, Venezuelan police have resorted to the use of tear gas:
…and blockades to stop the outbursts:
…resulting in hundreds of arrests thus far:
Naturally, both sides blame each other for the food shortages. President Nicolas Maduro, a socialist leader who took over after the 2013 death of Hugo Chavez, blames the global economy (and the United States, in particular) for the country’s decline.
His people, on the other hand, largely believe he is at fault for the mass economic crisis, resulting in numerous violent protests over the last two years and the declaration of a state of emergency last month.
Venezuelans have even called for a referendum election against Maduro in response to the food shortages. However, the socialist president announced earlier this month that it is unlikely a referendum will be held before 2017.