Venezuela Protests: Food Shortage Riots Turn Violent As Hungry Citizens Panic

Venezuelans protesting food shortages took to the streets across the entire country on Saturday. The activists carried signs proclaiming the “government is growing fatter” while leaving citizens to starve.

Food shortage protesters banged loudly on empty pots as they marched in the streets of Venezuela. Government security agents fired tear gas at the protesters, and violent exchanges between the two groups occurred once again.

For the past two months, food shortage protests have occurred in Venezuela almost daily. Angry demonstrators maintain the far-left policies of President Nicolas Maduro have turned an oil-rich nation into a land in the midst of an epic economic crisis. Imports to Venezuela have been limited, and many farms in the country have failed during the food crisis.

The Venezuelan protesters are demanding jailed activists be freed, that humanitarian aid in the form of food and medicine be allowed into the country, and are also calling for an early presidential election. Grocery store shelves in Venezuela have been empty for months, in some regions of the country, far longer.

Approximately 93 percent of Venezuelan citizens couldn’t afford to buy enough food, even if they could find a supermarket shelf that was not bare. About 73 percent of citizens lost weight over the past year due to the food shortage, MSN reports.

Venezuelan children seen begging in front of supermarkets, restaurants, and bakeries has now become commonplace. Adults have frequently been spotted digging rotting food out of trash containers. Even middle class Venezuelans have been forced to reduce the amount of vegetables and meat they purchase in order to stretch their money further and keep the bellies of their families full.

“Sometimes I only eat once or twice a day. Today I couldn’t find bread [for breakfast] at any bakery, and I came here because I can’t just stay home watching this country fall to pieces,” a 60-year-old protester identified only as Consuelo, told reporters during the food shortage protest. “It’s time for Nicolas Maduro to listen to the people and finally leave,” the elderly protester continued, adding that she prays for her country every single day.

Poor regions of Venezuela that were traditionally pro-government areas, now have road barricades and anti-Maduro graffiti dotting the landscape. Young protesters wearing hoods often clash with members of the Venezuela National Guard in the western Caracas area, Reuters reports.

President Nicolas Maduro was a bus driver and then a union leader before running for the nation’s highest office. He replaced Hugo Chavez as president in 2013. Maduro is not backing down amid the mounting violence over the food shortage and has vowed he is not going anywhere.

Daily life for many Venezuelans currently revolves around a hunt to find food. Food shortage protester Solange Rey said she lines up at 5 a.m. once a week to stand in line for six hours to purchase a basic food basket. Citizens are only permitted to buy staples once each week on an assigned day based upon the number on their identity cards.

The Venezuelan President claimed the food shortage protesters are heading up an “armed insurrection” in an effort to destroy socialism. Maduro maintains an end to socialism in Venezuela would permit big business to enter the country and finally take control over the largest oil reserves in the world.

Since the Venezuela food shortage protests began in April, a total of 64 people have been killed during the demonstrations. President Maduro said a desire to restore “peace” in Venezuela prompted him to create a powerful new governmental assembly and to rewrite the country’s national charter.

Hugo Chavez also rewrote the national charter in 1999. The then president threatened to end democracy in Venezuela. President Maduro’s opponents maintain he is attempting to create a “Cuban-style” single-party system in the country.

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[Featured Image by Ariana Cubillos/AP Photo]