Venezuela’s Socialist Government Blames US For Supermarket Lootings As Food Shortages Bite

Guy Bentley | Research Associate, Reason Foundation

Venezuela’s economic nightmare is reaching a crescendo with desperate citizens looting supermarkets as food shortages worsen.

A new report by the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict found 56 incidents of looting and 76 looting attempts took place in the first half of 2015. Basic goods such as cooking oil, toilet paper and even beer are running short thanks to severe currency controls, a host of price caps and profit ceilings.

One the latest incidents took place Sunday when a crowd in the city of San Cristobal broke into a government-run Bicentenario supermarket to steal products after it had closed, Reuters reports. The staff were left battered and bruised according to store manager Edward Perez.

On July 31, one man was left dead and 60 were arrested after supermarkets were raided by the residents of the city of Ciudad Guayana. The same day, the increasingly paranoid President Nicolas Maduro accused the U.S. of having a hand in the riots. “In February Gral. John Kelly (commander of United States Southern Command) predicted that July would be the month of social implosion in Venezuela,” he said.

Maduro has used the alleged threat of U.S. imperialism and “economic war” to expand the powers of his office to rule be decree. Despite railing against both President Barack Obama and Venezuelan businessman, the socialist government is losing its grip on the social and economic life of the nation.

With shortages across the country, the black market has ballooned. Smugglers are reaping huge profits buying subsidized goods and reselling them in neighboring Colombia. In 2014, the smuggling epidemic was so intense the government posted 17,000 troops on the Colombian border and closed crossings at night.

It has been estimated that as much as 40 percent of Venezuela’s subsidized goods are smuggled. Furthermore, the collapsing price of oil has delivered a heavy blow to the already beleaguered economy. Inflation continues to soar with the last published figures from December showing a rate of 68.5 percent.

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