Venezuela (PanAm) – Protests Erupted in Caracas against Government’s Decision to Forbid Sale of Certain Food Products
Protests erupted in Caracas on Thursday, June 2nd as the hundreds of citizens waiting in line for their ration of food since the early hours of the morning realized that the local government was not delivering supplies to regular shops. Rather, the food was being delivered in trucks to special government stores.
The demonstrators blocked streets as they chanted: “There is hunger in Venezuela, there is no food…”
Usually, the authorities in charge of Libertador, a poor neighborhood controlled by chavista politicians, deny the Venezuelan opposition any permit to protest on the streets. Today, however, the mass gathering against the government formed spontaneously.
Members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard tried to disperse the protests with tear gas. They also asked members of the news media who had arrived to cover the unfolding events to withdraw from the scene immediately.
When the journalists resisted, members of the armed forces attacked a group of members of the press. At least 19 journalists employed by different news outlets denounced that they were physically assaulted or had photographic equipment and mobile phones stolen. Espacio Público, an NGO, reported 10 cases of theft, five threats, three cases of intimidation and censorship, and one case of physical aggression against journalists.
What the Government is Hiding
The PanAm Post can reveal that chavista politician Jorge Rodríguez, the Head of Government of the Caracas Capital District, pressured merchants with access to official government stores not to sell their products to the people waiting in line outside regular shops for their ration of food. Rodríguez promised sellers that the government would pay for their food and then deliver it through the the Local Committes for Provision and Distribution (of food) (CLAP).
According to President Nicolás Maduro, these local committees were set up to combat black market food sales and their function is to deliver directly food to houses in poor areas. However, this service is available only for “organized” associations and “communes.” Inhabitants in the rest of the city will not have access to food delivered directly to residences.
Maduro’s strategy is to gain support in the poorest areas of Caracas with such measures, delivering food to homes only in poor areas governed by his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Long lines outside shops and supermarkets, however, will continue in the municipalities governed by the opposition.
According to the government’s plans, supermarket owners and local mayors belonging to the opposition will be blamed for the “economic war” which certain groups are supposedly waging against Venezuela.
A similar practice has already been implemented in the coastal state of Vargas, where chavista Governor García Carneiro often boasts of the lack of lines of people waiting to buy food. What he fails to mention, however, is that there is no food in Vargas.
There, the Local Committes for Provision and Distribution of food discriminate based on political affiliation, are notably corrupt, and they multiply the number of black market food sellers who make profits in the black market off government-subsidized products.
This report prepared by Sabrina Martín for PanAm Post.