Frustrations from food and gas shortages and worsening economic hardship begin to boil over in Venezuela as protests, riots and looting begin to rise in towns across Venezuela.
By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Protests, riots and looting are taking place around Venezuela Thursday, with at least one death confirmed in an area where pro-Nicolas Maduro regime “colectivo” gang enforcers were present.
“The hunger…just took people over,” Bolivar state lawmaker Americo De Grazzia wrote in a social media posting. The fatality took place in Upata, Bolivar state.
“The murderers of the regime always shoot their victims from the waist up. They shoot to kill,” opposition lawmaker Jose Guerra commented in a social media posting about the events. A man was killed in Upata after being shot twice in the head and another case was reported in that city also during lootings, of a man shot in the upper torso.
Demonstrators and looters are defying strict quarantine regulations and a severe gasoline and food shortages to come out and protest, lighting barricades to block police and armed troops.
Venezuela was already enduring a humanitarian crisis. Hyperinflation, continuing record-setting devaluations (one US dollar now costs 200,000 bolivars after costing 80,000 bolivars 23 days ago on March 31) and a severe water shortage in 90% of the national territory also add to the inflammable mix.
The basic salary compensation of 500 bolivars per month that the majority of the country lives on is now worth less than one dollar a month -- not enough for lunch much less a month of food.
In 2015, under years of mismanagement, kleptocracy, and perverse economic policies, Venezuela GDP began to collapse, falling 10.25% that year. In 2016, GDP fell another 17.89%. In 2017, GDP fell 18.86%. In 2018, GDP fell 20.21%. In 2019, GDP fell 26.8%. All told, in the last 5 years, Venezuela's GDP has fallen 94.01%.
By way of comparison, during the Great Depression in the U.S., GDP fell 29% from 1929 to 1932.
In 2020, the IMF expects Venezuela GDP to fall another 15% as Venezuela's oil production continues its collapse from 3.5 million barrels per day in 1998 when the Chavistas came to power to 660,000 barrels per day last month -- just 19% of its production 22 years ago.
Venezuela's oil was being offered at $2 a barrel this week, well below its cost of production.
This is the most serious outbreak of anti-regime violence this year. More than two hundred demonstrators and security forces have died in the context of protests since 2017, according to the opposition-held National Assembly legislature.
NGO “Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social”, which tracks such events and advocates for demonstrators’ rights, confirmed the fatality.
“HE DIED OF HUNGER”
Disturbances were confirmed in eight locations, from Jajo in the Venezuelan Andes to Upata near the Brazilian border; from Punta de Mata in the east to Pueblo Llano in Merida. It was in Upata that a 29-year-old man was shot twice in the head by hooded gunmen in motorbikes wearing no discernible uniform or insignia.
Demonstrators wrote “Murio por hambre” or “he died of hunger” in the patch of asphalt where Charlis Antonino Nunez died, blood flowing from two gunshot wounds to his head.
Pueblo Llano, Siquisique, Tacarigua, Araya, Cumanacoa and Turen were also protesting. Strangely, East Caracas, a traditional hot bed of anti-Maduro activity, was quiet, as neighbors tried to buy food while observing a stringent quarantine.
Upata and Cumanacoa, in Eastern Venezuela, have been protesting for at least 48 hours, according to local and social media.
Seven other demonstrators were injured in Upata, at least one of them also from gunfire to the upper body area.
At least 10 demonstrators/looters were arrested in Upata alone, according to authorities. Looting included four of the town’s supermarkets.
Even Venezuelans returning from Colombia, but forced into quarantine confinement camps by the regime, protested against Maduro Thursday, NTN24 television station reported.