Cumana awoke this morning reeling from two days of looting and unrest that left two people dead, 25 injured and approximately 60 businesses in ruins. This morning, more than 100 business in the city east of Caracas chose to not open their doors out of fears that the unrest would continue today, and National Guard soldiers patrolled the desolated streets.
National Assembly MUD deputy Milagros Paz was in Cumana today surveying the damage, and pointed out that recovery would not be easy:
How can you recover after something like this with an economy like ours? What’s more, what [security] can you guarantee to the stores that survived this situation? Things are worse today. No one was ready for this, and I don’t think businesses are willing to do business under these circumstances.
The governor of Sucre state, Luis Acuña, blamed the unrest yesterday on a plot by Venezuela’s enemies to destabilize the country, calling the looting part of a “well-designed plan to generate unrest”. Acuña said:
Today, in Cumana, a situation that had been announced in advance by sectors that are interested in vandalism took place in Cumana. It’s suspicious that MUD leaders have come to Sucre. Coincidentally, today the National Assembly was taking about local issues [I think he means, “talking about what happened in Cumana”].
Earlier today, Acuña said that at least 400 people have been arrested, and that the majority of them are minors.
He also conceded that while the state government is doing all that it can to distribute food as efficiently as possible, the state does not have enough food to meet demand.
Scarcity Crisis Hitting Pregnant Women, Children Hardest
El Nacional published an article today in which it examines the ways in which the food scarcity crisis is affecting Venezuelans. The newspaper spoke with a woman who was lined up outside of a supermarket in Caracas, who said:
I’ve been here lined up since 3:00 AM, and I’ve only been able to find toilet paper (…) in my home, we eat one or two times a day, when we’ve got some [food]. When we don’t have food, we just put up with it. What hurts me is [seeing] my sons and my grandsons. They’re the ones who are suffering. We didn’t go through this even during the coup of ’99 [sic].
A coordinator of the Observatorio Venezolano de Salud [Venezuela Health Watch] explained how pregnant women are particularly at risk by the food scarcity crisis:
If a pregnant woman is exposed to a situation of food scarcity and she doesn’t eat well, she’ll have a deficit of nutrients. This affects the genetic expression of [her metabolism and affects] obesity, diabetes, and hypertension rates. We’re starting to cause harm much earlier.
Susana Raffalli, a nutritionist and food security specialist, told El Nacional that the hardest hit are the country’s children, since they are still in the process of development:
What’s happening now when it comes to malnutrition specially affects children in an irreparable way. It’s an inter-generational problem. There’s no possible way to undo the cognitive damage that the State, as the administrator of the food system, is causing children.
Roxana Sandoval, also a nutritionist, says that among the myriad of problems caused by malnutrition are increased risks for developing amenia and osteoporosis.
As to the cause of the scarcity crisis, food production expert Rodrigo Agudo said that between 2010 and 2013, every country in Latin America increased food exports except for one: Venezuela. He said that Venezuela has abandoned food production, and has instead opted to increase imports. Agudo pointed out the problem with this plan:
We have fewer dollars today with which to import. It is calculated that this year, food imports will be below $7 billion: in other words, 41% less than in 2012. This drop means hunger.
The lack of food has had a devastating impact not only on Venezuelan diets but also on the very fabric of society. The Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad [Venezuela Conflict Watch] (OVC) says that in May, the #1 motivator for protests in the country was the lack of food. OVC calculates that out of the 641 protests it registered throughout the country in May, 27% were motivated by the lack of food, followed by housing and utility at 22%.
National Guard Represses UCV Demonstration
Students at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas staged a demonstration on campus today against insecurity, just hours after a student was shot in the head on campus during a robbery. The student survived the shooting, but it is not clear what his status is at this time.
The National Guard showed up to the demonstration and attempted to disperse the students with tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray:
Youth Killed in Lagunillas Unrest
A 17-year-old youth died early this morning after being shot in the head during unrest in the town of Lagunillas, Merida state. Overnight, protesters in the city burned down part of the local PSUV office and hurled stones at the municipal administrations building.
The unrest was sparked by a lack of food in the town. More specifically, it appears to have been started after the mayor of the town, Aron Varela, promised residents that the city would sell bags of powdered milk, but then failed to deliver on his word.
National Assembly MUD deputy for Merida Carlos Paparoni said that 11 people were arrested during the course of the unrest last night,
Below, some pictures from Lagunillas from yesterday and last night:
MUD Deputies Meet in Miraflores To Demand Access to Aid
A group of opposition deputies traveled to the Miraflores Palace early this morning to demand that Maduro allow international medical and food aid to reach the country, a day after the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) struck down a law outlining the ways in which Venezuela could ask for, receive and administer international aid.
MUD deputies Manuela Bolivar, Jose Trujillo, Maria Teresa Perez and Miguel Pizarro walked over to the building that houses the national government just blocks away from the National Assembly. They left shortly after their arrival because neither Maduro nor anyone from his office agreed to speak to them.
Allup to Speak at OAS
The President of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, has been invited to speak at a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) that is set to take place on June 23. Allup said that he would travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with the OAS and “expose the collapse of constitutional order in Venezuela”.
Allup also said that Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez and “Maduro’s diplomatic team” are putting pressure on the OAS to rescind Allup’s June 23 invitation.
Through his Twitter account, Allup also gave his opinion on who he thinks is responsible for the crisis in Venezuela:
Let’s tell it like it is: the father of this tragedy that is afflicting our country is Hugo Chavez Frias, and Maduro has made it worse.
CNE Adds Verification Stations
The Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) announced yesterday that it was adding 128 signature verification stations to the 24 it had already announced for the process which is set to run June 20-24.
Gallegos’ Tomb Desecrated
The tomb of Romulo Gallegos – a writer and one of the country’s most important political figures – was desecrated today along with that of his wife. The culprits took marble decorations that adorned the grave, as well as the remains of Gallegos and his wife. The tomb is located in Caracas’ Cementerio General del Sur.
Gallegos’ granddaughter, Theotiste Gallegos, broke the news of the event and posted the following picture showing the damage to the site:
Theotiste said that the culprits “have stolen my history and part of the history of each Venezuelan”.
Aside from being a renowned author, Gallegos was a leader of the Venezuelan democratic movement in the first half of the 20th century, and was elected President of the Republic in what are widely recognized to be the first free and fair elections in the country’s history, in 1948.
The mayor of the Libertador municipality, Jorge Rodriguez, reacted to news by saying that effective immediately, the Gallegos tomb could count on “permanent vigilance”.
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