Facing Food Shortage, Venezuelans Storm Streets in Protest

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By Danica Lo Posted September 02, 2016

According to some reports, 90 percent of Venezuelans can no longer afford to buy food.

After more than a year of economic decline prompted by a crash in oil prices, hundreds of thousands—up to a million, according to some estimates—of Venezuela's citizens have taken to the streets in protest of sitting President Nicolas Maduro's administration and its policies, which they blame for the country's snowballing inflation rate (at 180 percent, the world's highest) and widespread food shortage. According to reports, the march in the capital city of Caracas was organized by 19 opposition parties "to pressure the country's electoral authorities to call a referendum on Maduro's future before January 10."

"Venezuela is convulsing from hunger," the New York Times reported in June. "The economic collapse of recent years has left it unable to produce enough food on its own or import what it needs from abroad... A staggering 87 percent of Venezuelans say they do not have money to buy enough food."

A CNN report issued earlier this month cited statistics from Panjiva, a global trade analytics firm that culls data from Venezuela's largest food trading partners as well as the United Nations. It estimates: "Bread shipments to Venezuela fell 94 percent in the first half of 2016 compared to the the same period last year. That's $216,000 worth of bread this year, versus $3.5 million last year. Meat exports declined 63 percent to $127 million, from nearly $350 million last year. Exports of fruit such as bananas and strawberries plunged 99 percent, to $159,000, from $21 million. Fish exports dropped 87 percent. Sugar fell 34 percent."

"Some 90 percent of Venezuelans now report that food has become too expensive to buy," The Center for Investigative Reporting's Nathan Halverson said on PBS. "Hungry mobs are increasingly rioting and looting bakeries and food trucks."

This week's march, which protestors are calling the "Takeover of Caracas," follows on the heels of the arrest and detainment of several opposition leaders. The BBC reports that the leader of the Popular Will party was placed back in prison and Carlos Melo and Yon Goicoechea, activists from the same party, were also arrested in the last few days.

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