Hunger crisis in Venezuela turns violent, deadly

Posted June 28

The people of Venezuela are starving.

Despite laying claim to the world’s largest oil reserves, the nation’s economy has tumbled and left everyday staples like food and electricity in short supply.

Residents are responding, NPR reported, with violent protests that have claimed the lives of four people and resulted in the arrests of 400 others in one small city. One group in the country estimates at least 10 store lootings take place each day, though many of the stores' shelves are close to empty.

Even before a national food shortage struck, studies found families in the country were not making enough money to eat properly.

As reported by The New York Times, 87 percent of people in Venezuela said they don’t have the money to buy enough food. Additionally, about 72 percent of a person’s monthly income is spent on food. The article went on to say a family would need the equivalent of 16 minimum-wage salaries to properly feed itself.

The lack of food and electricity is leading to a slew of other problems for Venezuelans, particularly in health and education.

Rodolfo Ruiz, a 79-year-old man living with kidney failure in Maracaibo, told NPR he has to go without his dialysis treatment at night because the town rations each home to only 12 hours of electricity a day. In some cities, public employees work only twice a week due to government cutbacks.

Another New York Times article found, even though more than one-third of Venezuelans are younger than 15, most students in the country miss about 40 percent of school because they and their teachers spend time waiting in line for food. As seen in this Times photo essay, hungry citizens can wait in line for more than eight hours each day.

The Chicago Tribune recently found the country's economy "contracted 8 percent in 2015 and is expected to dip another 8 percent this year." It also said inflation is expected to reach 720 percent by the end of 2016.

Many are blaming President Nicolás Maduro for making food "artificially cheap," but he blames political opponents and the low price of oil for the country's troubles, according to NPR, which reported the country is too poor to import food, and people are smuggling government-subsidized groceries into Columbia to sell for profit.

Quartz reported U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is backing a referendum that could result in Maduro's recall. Kerry said during the Organization of American States General Assembly last week that Venezuela and other member states work together to "remedy the deeply troubling situation in Venezuela," and asked the nation to "alleviate shortages of food and medicine," among other things.

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