Spanish – In Venezuela, hunger, food shortages, hyperinflation, lack of basic public services such as water, and constant power failures have driven its citizens to despair. Now, in times of quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortage of gasoline has complicated the situation for many, coupled with the increase in the price of the parallel dollar in recent days, which translates into less purchasing power and higher prices for the basic consumer goods in the South American country.
A quarantine in any nation entails economic consequences and loss of productivity. This is bound to happen when an entire nation is shut down. However, Venezuela was already suffering under a historical humanitarian crisis because of socialism under Maduro’s regime. Now, the country has no fuel, and the parallel dollar has reached a record high. The deterioration of living conditions has been further accelerated. People can’t find food to eat because of the gasoline shortages and unaffordable costs that keep rising continuously.
On Thursday, inhabitants of different towns broke quarantine security measures and came out to demand food and gasoline supplies. This went out of control, and the protest against shortages and the rise in food prices turned violent.
Images and videos of the chaotic situation appeared on social media, as did the repression of protests by the National Guard.
Protestas y disturbios se extienden en todo el país ante el hambre y la escasez de servicios provocado por la dictadura de Maduro https://t.co/4ZcDmAhNI8
— Centro de Comunicación Nacional (@Presidencia_VE) April 23, 2020
Upata, in the state of Bolivar, and the municipality of Ezequiel Zamora, in the state of Monagas, reported riots following the worsening food shortages in the popular sectors and the high prices of products.
It is not clear exactly how many businesses have been affected by the situation. The Chamber of Commerce of the municipality of Piar, in the south of the state of Bolivar, requested support from the security agencies to control the situation.
#ÚltimaHora Situación irregular en Upata, estado Bolívar, protestas y conatos de saqueo, venezolanos padecen en plena #CuarentenaNacional colapso de servicios públicos #SilLuz #SinAgua #SinGas y una hiperinflación y liberación de precios letal pic.twitter.com/OiPKtIlz0j
— AXIOMA.REPORT (@AxiomaReport) April 23, 2020
Local media reported that the violent clashes resulted in at least 33 detentions, six people injured, and one death. According to information confirmed by the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, the fatal victim is Charlis Antonino Nuñez, 29, who was shot twice in the head after participating in a protest in Upata.
— Observatorio de Conflictos (@OVCSocial) April 23, 2020
In the state of Barinas, drivers from Socopó, in the municipality of Sucre, closed the entrance to the town in protest of the gasoline sales. The protesters argued that service stations are catering only to certain sectors, but not to civil society.
#Denuncia | Hoy #23Abr habitantes de #Socopo en el edo. #Barinas trancaron la troncal 5 en protesta por la falta de gasolina y el mercado negro existente por parte del régimen con el combustible. EL hambre se agudiza en las familias venezolanas. #SinGasolinaNoHayComida pic.twitter.com/WyeQoXiE5m
— Vente Barinas (@VenteBarinas) April 23, 2020
Transporters from Guanare, state of Portuguesa, also protested. Drivers reported fuel service failures in the region. Some claimed they had been out of work for a month.
— Segovia Bastidas (@SegoviaBastidas) April 24, 2020
Citizens from Punta de Mata, Zamora municipality in the state of Monagas, also broke the quarantine and came out to protest the high cost of food and the regime’s failure to respond.
— Americo De Grazia (@AmericoDeGrazia) April 23, 2020
Since Wednesday, there have been protests in other parts of the Chavista-ruled country.
In the city of Cumanacoa, Sucre, several lootings were reported in shops due to a shortage of food.
“Unfortunately, there are seven wounded in the Hospital of #Cumanacoa as a result of the riots. I have been informed that they are three men, two women, and two teenagers. The injuries include fractures and allegedly one gunshot wound. There are other wounded who refuse to go to the hospital because they fear being arrested,” said Deputy Robert Alcalá.
En #Cumanacoa Municipio #Montes de #Sucre la gente salió a saquear. Argumentan que Comerciantes cambiaron los precios hoy a media mañana y que están pasando hambre. No resisten la falta de gasolina y los altos precios. @AsambleaVE @jguaido @ADemocratica pic.twitter.com/pKE68njfbm
— Robert Alcalá (@robertalcalasu) April 22, 2020
In Pueblo Llano, Merida, citizens protested the shortage of food and gasoline. Lawrence Castro, a representative of this state, detailed on his Twitter account that farmers led the demonstration because they have lost their harvest due to the quarantine measures.
Además, la necesidad de comida, de gasolina, de dinero para el sustento, hace que los merideños rompan la cuarentena. Esto profundiza la crisis, ya que los expone aún más al COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/i3GYwJW8Gl
— Lawrence Castro (@LawrenceACastro) April 22, 2020
The same occurred in Siquisique, Lara. Residents took to the streets to demand that the authorities respond to their needs because the confinement has made their homes more vulnerable.
#22Abril #vzlaencrisisdegasolina La población de #siquisique #lara tierra de los ascendientes de @jguaido acorraló al alcalde Luis Ladino para exigir que les surtieran gasolina por tener más de 15 días sin combustible @Presidencia_VE @AsambleaVE @partidoUNT @_UNT_Lara pic.twitter.com/wzDCCEi89h
— Guillermo Palacios (@guillerpalacios) April 22, 2020