See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Protests and Looting Rock Venezuela as Public Chaos Spreads

La crisis económica y la escasez de alimentos han contribuido a un aumento en los saqueos en Venezuela. Fotografía ampliamente compartida en las redes venezolanas dentro de las discusiones sobre la crisis alimentaria y los saqueos del 11 de mayo de 2016.

The economic crisis and food shortage has contributed to a rise in looting in Venezuela. Photograph widely shared on Venezuelan social networks under threads about the food crises and looting on May 11, 2016.

According to information shared on social networks and local media, certain cities in Venezuela have recently witnessed heightened tensions due to protests and instances of looting that seem to be rising in number. While the origin of the unrest has many complicated roots, the country's deepening economic crisis has made matters only worse recently. Earlier this month, opposition groups also launched a series of protests to demand a recall referendum, the process for which was initiated in April.

Some of the looting in early May occurred in Mérida, a city in the west of the country. On Twitter, Internet users have uploaded footage of confrontations between the police and looters, widely condemning the latter for bringing chaos to the city:

IN #MÉRIDA AND THESE AWFUL PEOPLE CALL IT RESISTENCE #MerGuevo “Mega Blumer” [A women's clothing shop] LOOTING IS STEALING https://t.co/0mQT9zi1Ju

— Edmundo C.R. (@EDMUNDOTUNDO) May 11, 2016

Others have defended the students who started the protests, stressing that the demonstrations began for justifiable reasons. In the case of Mérida, the protests were a response to dissatisfaction in the student community with shortages at the university cafeteria:

In this video we can see how yesterday's looting in #Merida was done by collectives and “bachaqueros” [or arbitrageurs] not by students. pic.twitter.com/ZsgzeYOfG7 [What you didn't see during the looting of a lingerie shop in Mérida]

— Anayanceen (@AnayansyMijares) May 11, 2016

A day after the protest and looting in Mérida, still more protests took place, this time in response to calls from the opposition party. The protests, which occurred in the capital, as well, rallied under the common cause of a referendum recall, which they hope will happen later this year. Demonstrators have demanded that the National Electoral Council comply with stipulated timelines, saying they have have not been respected, so far.

On Twitter, eyewitnesses have shared photos of the National Guard in the streets:

Large GNB [the National Guard] presence in front of CNE-Mérida [National Electoral Council – Mérida] pic.twitter.com/R4sdOI0MAi

— Leonardo León (@leoperiodista) May 11, 2016

This is how the opposition was received in Mérida… pic.twitter.com/Ypnaao2ra5

— Leonardo León (@leoperiodista) May 11, 2016

The same scene repeated itself in the capital Caracas, where, according to users like GéGé, the National Guard impeded the progress of protesters on their way to the National Electoral Council (its original destination):

.@JuanPGuanipa GNB blocks our way claiming that the CNE is in military facilities. #CNERevocatorioYApic.twitter.com/XCNu4R4wEh

— GéGé (@GegeRpz) May 11, 2016

This is an important moment in #Venezuela. [Just a] few times have GNB blockades been broken. People want the recall #CNERevocatorioYApic.twitter.com/5T8e3a3Bug. [The current situation in Venezuela. People want the recall.]

— Nano Guevara (@nanoguevarag) May 11, 2016

As the economic situation worsens, more and more images of National Guard troops and looting have appeared online.

107 lootings and looting attempts in the first trimester alone. https://t.co/k1Yjd1piFkpic.twitter.com/Zg2PIdZMGj

— La Patilla (@la_patilla) May 11, 2016

Via @venezolanodecen Looting of Mayorista Maracay Market pic.twitter.com/yJhpQqq7lv

— 2RADI0 ™ (@2RADl0) May 11, 2016

#11M: GNB stops looting attempts in Guarenas https://t.co/4HCxAU5qvQpic.twitter.com/df2Hnpnllh

— La Patilla (@la_patilla) May 11, 2016

Guards arrive in riot gear pic.twitter.com/ZEKhgPW7Ho

 

Shortages, Discontent, and the Economic Crisis Told in First Person

In a post published on Medium under the category “Chronicles of a Worried Citizen,” Aglalia Berlutti gave a personal account of her search for staple goods, shedding light on the suffering caused by the country's economic setbacks. Berlutti's account contrasts starkly with declarations by the government, which says food shortages are exaggerated—a surprising claim to those actually struggling to find food on sale. Crises in security, electricity, and food have combined and forced many in the country to spend hours every day waiting in lines to buy the basic necessities.

En palabras sencillas, para la Ministra de relaciones Interiores la escasez que se sufre en Venezuela es «aparente». […] Leo la noticia mientras me encuentro en una larga fila para comprar aceite de cocina, arroz y azúcar. Hace más de dos horas que el supermercado abrió sus puertas y más de tres desde que espero poder adquirir la ínfima existencia de productos regulados que según el número de mi cédula podré comprar. Me encuentro de pie bajo el sol, agobiada por la temperatura y la usual sensación de incomodidad y humillación que me produce el método de aguardar por horas para comprar algunos alimentos. Es una escena triste y llena de desesperanza: La multitud abrumada e inquieta que llena la calle, algunos con sus niños tomados de la mano, otros desalentados, sentados de cualquier manera sobre el concreto ardiente.

In simple terms, for the Minister of Internal Relations the shortage suffered by Venezuela is mere “appearances.”  I read this piece of news as I wait in a long line to buy cooking oil, rice, and sugar. The supermarket opened its doors more than two hours ago but it's been more than three that I have been waiting in the hopes of getting those almost non-existent regulated products that, according to my ID number, I am entitled to buy. I find myself standing under the sun, overwhelmed by the heat and the usual sensation of discomfort and humiliation that I feel when I wait hours to buy some food. It is a sad scene, filled with desperation. The exhausted and restless multitude fill the street, some holding their children by the hand, others disheartened, sitting any which way on the burning concrete.

Berlutti says she's not alone, either, pointing out that there are many in the lines with her. Some have been forced to turn to the so-called “bachaqueros”—wandering re-sellers who tend to raise prices many times over original costs.

—Yo tuve que pedir los lunes libres en el trabajo porque si no es así, los muchachos no comen —me explica una mujer que espera unos metros por delante en la fila. Me cuenta que es madre de tres (todos menores de edad y cursando primeros grados de primaria) y que no puede darse el lujo de acudir a los llamados «bachaqueros». —No tengo plata [dinero] hija, no me queda otro remedio que venir para acá a esperar. ¿Qué más puede hacer uno? […] —Yo prefiero hacer mi cola. El otro día encontré café, ¡casi veinte veces el precio de verdad! —comenta— No hay forma de alimentarse en este país. Lo que sea que encuentres por tu lado, es tan costoso que tienes que venir a hacer tu cola y aceptar la limosna al gobierno. Así estamos.

I had to ask for Mondays off at work because, if not, my kids can't eat, explains a woman waiting in line a couple meters in front of me. She tells me that she is a mother of three (all of them are underage and studying their first years in primary school) and she can't afford the luxury of paying the so-called “bachaqueros.” “I don’t have money, I don’t have any other options besides coming here and waiting. What more can anyone do? […] I prefer to wait in line. The other day I found coffee that was almost 20 times the real price!” she said. “There isn’t any way to feed yourself in this country. Whatever you can find nearby is so expensive that you have to come and wait in line to get handouts from the government. This is where we are now.”

The National Guard has also increased its presence at food lines, in response to the rising risk of looting:

Un grupo de cinco militares con el arma de reglamento bien visible aparecen caminando por la calle y comienzan a custodiar la cola. Uno de ellos vuelve el rostro brillante por el sudor y nos dedica una mirada dura, remota. Han transcurrido casi cuatro horas desde que llegué y todavía no estoy cerca de entrar al supermercado. Un barullo de gritos y forcejeo llena algunos espacios de la calle y una violenta impaciencia caldea el aire. Todos quieren entrar pero la mayoría está consciente que con toda seguridad, el inventario de productos no será suficiente para satisfacer a las casi centenar de personas que esperan. Siento un rápido latigazo de miedo. Recuerdo las narraciones periodísticas sobre saqueos y hechos de violencia.

A group of five soldiers with guns and very visible army uniforms appear walking down the street and start to take charge of the line. One of them turns around, his face is shiny from sweat and he gives us a hard, remote stare. Almost four hours have passed since I've arrived and I'm still not close to entering the supermarket. A burst of screams and pushing starts to fill some spaces in the street and a violent impatience heats the air. Everyone wants to enter but the majority of us are aware without a doubt, that the store inventory won’t be enough to satisfy many of the people who are waiting. I feel a quick pang of fear. I remember the news stories about looting and violent acts.

Berlutti's experience isn't unique. With shortages rising and a political crisis brewing, many have voiced worries that Venezuela seems to be flirting with potential disaster.

What comes after store lootings when there isn't anything left to take? Informing on neighbors and stealing what they have.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site