CARACAS — The mayor of Chacao in Venezuela’s capital Caracas has warned that Caribbean islands and Colombia may suffer an influx of refugees from Venezuela if food shortages continue in the country.
The mayor, Ramón Muchacho, said that people have been reduced to hunting cats, dogs and pigeons for food.
“As hunger deepens, we could see more Venezuelans fleeing by land or sea to an island,” he said.
Venezuela saw a new wave of looting last week that resulted in at least two deaths, countless wounded, and millions of dollars in losses and damages, as desperation sets in among hungry residents and the country appears to be on the verge of complete collapse and chaos.
Panampost reported that last Wednesday morning a crowd ransacked a supermarket in the central region of Venezuela.
“They took milk, pasta, flour, oil, and milk powder. There were 5,000 people,” one witness told Venezuela outlet El Estímulo.
People from across the entire state came to the supermarket because there were rumours that some products not found anywhere else would be sold there. Authorities were unable to control the massive crowd.
“There were 250 people for each National Guard officer… lots of people and few soldiers. At least one officer was beat up because he tried to stop the crowd,” another source told El Estímulo.
Hard-hit by falling oil revenues, Venezuela’s economy appears to be in freefall, experiencing shortages of almost all essentials and an inflation rate projected by the IMF to increase to 1,642% in 2017
Other food outlets run by the government were also looted by the people.
Over the last two weeks, several provinces have seen looting in pharmacies, shopping malls, supermarkets, and food delivery trucks. In several markets, shouts of “we are hungry!” were heard.
On April 27, the Venezuelan Chamber of Food (Cavidea) reported that the country’s food producers only had 15 days left of inventory.
Oscar Meza, director of the Documentation Center for Social Analysis (Cendas-FVM), said that measurements of scarcity and inflation in May are going to be the worst to date.
“We are officially declaring May as the month that [widespread] hunger began in Venezuela,” he told Web Noticias Venezuela. “As for March, there was an increase in yearly prices due to inflation — a 582.9 percent increase for food, while the level of scarcity of basic products remains at 41.37 percent.”
Meza said the trigger for the crisis is the shortage of bread and other foods derived from wheat.
Meanwhile, as protests rocked Caracas on Saturday and civil war appeared all but inevitable, opposition factions are vying to oust President Nicolas Maduro, who has blamed the United States for the unrest in his country.
Addressing the nation on Friday, Maduro declared a “constitutional state of emergency … to tend to our country and more importantly to prepare to denounce, neutralize and overcome the external and foreign aggressions against our country.”
The Venezuelan leader also called a press conference with key allies yesterday – including those in the Caribbean – asking for their help in aiding Venezuela in its fight against so-called “imperialists”.
Maduro also called for military exercises to take place next weekend to prepare for “any scenario”, including a foreign invasion.