CARACAS – Protests broke out early Thursday in Venezuela when people angry over shortages of gas, water and food for holiday meals took to the streets, media reports said.
In the Antimano and La Vega neighborhoods of western Caracas, where the ruling party is most popular, scores of residents demanded the hams promised by the government for the traditional holiday dinner table.
Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) officers used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators and at least one liquor store was looted, an EFE reporter confirmed at the scene.
The highway to Upata, a city in the southeastern state of Bolivar, was blocked on Wednesday by residents demanding water and food, the Correo del Caroni newspaper said.
Demonstrators were also upset because the bags of food and toys promised by the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP), the government agency responsible for regular deliveries to the poor of subsidized food, had not arrived.
Media outlets reported similar protests in Ciudad Guayana, another city in Bolivar, and in towns in Isla Margarita, located in northern Venezuela.
Protests over shortages have spread across the country in recent weeks, but they have intensified because the CLAP boxes, which are essential for thousands of families, did not include hams.
On Wednesday, President Nicolas Maduro accused Portugal of “sabotaging” the timely importation of hams, one of the main ingredients in this Caribbean country’s holiday meals.
“It was all ready,” Maduro said. “I gave the order and I signed the payments.”
For months, Venezuela has been mired in a deep economic crisis that the Maduro administration blames on an “economic war” being waged by the United States and private businesses committed to toppling the president.