Looting Sweeps Venezuela as Hunger Takes Over

By: Sabrina Martín - @SabrinaMartinR - Aug 6, 2015, 3:00 pm
According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, markets throughout the country have been looted over 50 times in the first half of the year.
According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, markets throughout the country have been looted over 50 times in the first half of the year. (Entorno Inteligente)

EspañolIt’s the law of the jungle in Venezuela, as shopping for groceries becomes an increasingly dangerous activity. As the shortage crisis worsens, more and more angry mobs are raiding the nation’s supermarkets, looting whatever basic goods they can find.

During the first half of 2015, the Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict (OVCS) registered no fewer than 132 incidents of looting or attempted looting at various stores throughout the country. In addition, Venezuelan consumers staged over 500 protests that condemned the lack of available products at state-run grocery stores, markets, and pharmacies.

The OVCS has documented at least 132 incidents of looting or attempted looting in Venezuela in the first half of 2015 alone. (<a href="" target="_blank">OVCS</a>)
The OVCS has documented at least 132 incidents of looting (saqueos) or attempted looting in Venezuela in the first half of 2015 alone. (OVCS)

The report, titled “Social Conflict in Venezuela during the First Half of 2015,” also notes that 2,836 protests have taken place this year over various demands, including labor issues, housing, security, and education, as well as food shortages.

The number of total protests, however, has dropped compared to the same period last year, when 6,369 anti-government rallies took place, leaving 43 dead, hundreds wounded, and dozens of political prisoners detained.

With an average of 14 protests per day, the unrest has Venezuela “trapped in a spiral of social and political conflicts that grow over the months, and which could become more acute due to the forthcoming parliamentary elections,” the observatory notes in its report.

On the other hand, the South American country has experienced a surge in protests over labor issues. The NGO reports that demonstrations over these issues increased by 50 percent compared to the same period last year, with 162 labor protests per month.

High inflation and the drastic decline in the value of the bolívar on the black market has hit wages hard. Venezuelans currently earn the lowest incomes on the continent, with a minimum wage of US$10.87 per month, based on the unofficial exchange rate.

Social Desperation

Marco Antonio Ponce, general coordinator for the OVCS, tells the PanAm Post that the rise in protests and vandalism stems from a widespread dissatisfaction with the government among the public.

“Desperation is increasing, since people can’t purchase food, medicine, or personal-hygiene products,” he says.

According to the OVCS, 83 percent of all protests in early 2015 have focused on "social issues," on matters of survival rather than political liberties. (<a href="" target="_blank">OVCS</a>)
According to the OVCS, 83 percent of all protests in early 2015 have focused on “social issues,” on matters of survival rather than political liberties. (OVCS)

While labor issues continue to be the most cited reason for demonstrations, Ponce says the OVCS has observed a shift from more politically motivated protests in 2014 to demonstrations focused on social issues in 2015.

Regime officials continue with the line that the opposition is behind a “destabilization plot,” inciting looting and protests as a way to harm the ruling party’s position.

“The opposition has a tradition of turning these electoral processes into a war,” says PSUV Congressman Eduardo Piñate. “Not just putting up posters and chanting slogans, but a true dirty war, an economic war, a media war inside and outside the country.”

Ponce says that while he respects the government’s position, the OVCS’s data demonstrates that the looting that has taken place is not a recent occurrence or politically motivated, but “has been an ongoing, increasing trend since early 2015.”

He says looters who steal food show signs of “desperation and discomfort,” frustrated by the inability to find basic goods.

The OVCS representative concludes that unless the government “takes the necessary measures,” he expects protests over food shortages to increase in the second half of the year.

Sabrina Martín Sabrina Martín

Sabrina Martín is a Venezuelan journalist, commentator, and editor based in Valencia with experience in corporate communication. Follow @SabrinaMartinR.

Chief Suspect Confesses to Hand in Murder of Mexican Journalist

By: Franco Bastida - @iamtheFES - Aug 6, 2015, 1:49 pm

EspañolThe main suspect in the murder of Mexican photojournalist Rubén Espinosa and four women on July 31 has accepted his involvement in the multiple homicide, according a statement submitted to Mexico City Attorney General Rodolfo Ríos Garza. In an interview with Primero Noticias on August 6, Ríos Garza said that the 42-year-old detainee — a former convict who has served nine years and six months in prison for crimes that include rape and robbery — also acknowledged the collaboration of two other people in the murder. Fingerprints at the crime scene allowed the prosecutor's office to match existing criminal records to the ex-convict, whose name has not been released. However, the detainee denies that he ever shot the victims with a 9 mm gun; rather, he asserts that he accompanied the others and took several belongings from the Mexico City apartment. A surveillance video released by the prosecutor's office on Tuesday, August 4, shows three suspects leaving the apartment building where the five victims suffered torture and were shot to the head. Taken a short time after 3 p.m. CDT, the video shows a man with a roller suitcase walking away, and another suspect getting into a red Ford Mustang, which belonged to one of the victims. The driver takes ample time to drive away, while the last suspect runs across the street five minutes after his accomplices leave. Espinosa had fled the state of Veracruz in June to seek refuge in Mexico City, after suffering different episodes of harassment and intimidation as a reporter. There he freelanced as a contributor to Proceso magazine, Cuartoscuro, and the AVC news agency. He is remembered for his photograph of Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). In the photo, Duarte appears wearing a police cap and with a defiant look in his eyes, his belly hanging over of the top of his trousers. "Rubén Espinosa, another journalist (Proceso) murdered under the @Javier_Duarte regime. How many more? @jenarovillamil" Proceso magazine used the image for its cover of an edition that contained reports on the murders of journalists and the impunity that reigns in Veracruz, including the third anniversary of the murder of Proceso journalist Regina Martínez. According to data from the Attorney General's Office (PGR), from 2000 up to this date, 16 out of 103 Mexican journalists killed and four out of 25 who have disappeared have been from Veracruz state — with convictions almost nonexistent. While the Prosecutor's Office has yet to name the other four victims, local media outlets have reported them as activist Nadia Vera Pérez of #YoSoy132 in Xalapa, Veracruz, a domestic employee, and Vera's two roommates, one of whom was a Colombian citizen.

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