Hundreds of citizens from the El Tigre municipality in Anzoategui state took to the streets today in protest over the continuing food scarcity crisis in the country. The citizens gathered outside the city’s administrative officers starting early this morning.
El Nacional reports that the protest began as an outgrow of a long line of shoppers who had been hoping to find food in a local Bicentenario supermarket earlier today. What little food the supermarket had apparently ran out early in the morning, causing the frustrated shoppers to protest.
Below, video and images from the video.
In the video below, a man states his reason for protesting. My translation follows:
Camerawoman: One question – why are you protesting?
Man in Blue Hat: Because there’s no food anywhere. There’s no bread, no [unintelligible], no milk, no chicken, no meat. Venezuela is the 9th Wonder of the World: we’ve got nothing! We’re breaking records. We’re the poorest people in the world.
Crowd behind the man begins to chant, “Comida! Comida! Comida!” [Food! Food! Food!]
The video below shows another protester’s take on the demonstration:
Crowd chants, “Queremos comida! Queremos comida!” [We want food! We want food!]
Camerawoman: Why are you protesting?
Woman Carrying Infant: Because there’s no food, ma’am.
Camerawoman: How long had you been waiting [in line for the supermarket]?
Woman Carrying Infant: Since 2:00 AM. The [National] Guard took [the video cuts off here. The woman was most certainly going to say, “The National Guard took it”].
At some point, at least part of the protest was suppressed by National Guard soldiers. The video below shows what appears to be National Guard soldiers dispersing protesters by firing rubber bullets and possibly using tear gas.
(Note: In the video below, one of the soldiers has what appears to be a tear gas canister attached to the end of a stick. The soldier uses the stick to carry the canister around, placing it wherever protesters are to disperse them. However, I’m not entirely convinced that the smoke from the canister is regular tear gas. Not only is it a reddish colour which I’ve never seen before, but it also appears to dissipate much faster than tear gas, which usually lingers in the air for some time and forms rather large clouds. It is possible that this is a different type of tear gas than what is usually used in Venezuela; it may be another type of noxious substance other than tear gas [for example, some kind of pepper spray in gas form]; or it could be a non-irritating flare being passed off as tear gas to scare protesters away):
Another video showing part of the repression of today’s protest:
Below, more images from the protest in El Tigre earlier today:
Lucena Denounces “Attacks”
The head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, held a press conference today in order to denounce what she considers to be personal “attacks” against her made by “certain political leaders in the country”. Lucena was speaking about opposition politicians, who have made repeated calls to her over the past several weeks to stop deliberately delaying the recall referendum process against Maduro.
While Lucena did not provide specific examples of the kind of language she feels has victimized her, she did say that these attacks demonstrate a “deep contempt for the human being”, and that the attacks are at least partially motivated because she is a woman.
Lucena also called on all Venezuelans to “believe in peace” in order to stave off the outbreak of violence in Venezuela.
Lopez Hearing Postponed for Second Time
Earlier today, Leopoldo Lopez was transported from his prison cell inside the Ramo Verde military prison to a Caracas courtroom where a judge was scheduled to begin hearing the appeal to his conviction last year over his role in the 2014 protests. The hearing, which was scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM, was postponed to a later date.
This is the second time that the start of Lopez’s appeal process has been delayed.
US Extends Sanctions Against Venezuelan Officials
Yesterday afternoon, the United States Congress unanimously approved a motion first proposed by Senator Marco Rubio to extend sanctions against Venezuelan government officials suspected of violating human rights in the country until at least 2019.
Rubio spoke after the House vote yesterday, saying:
By extending these sanctions, we are reinforcing our commitment to those innocent people in our hemisphere who are subject to the abuses of the [Nicolás] Maduro regime.
House representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also spoke on the significance, saying:
As the Venezuelan people are deprived of liberty, protest the lack of food or necessary supplies available, and live through a deteriorating economy, we should keep the pressure on the oppressors by freezing assets and removing visas of human-rights violators in Maduro’s regime.
Taxi Driver Works for Food
Ultimas Noticias published an article today in which it documents the new reality of work for a taxi driver named Wilson Ramirez: Ramirez has shunned money and now works directly for food. He makes the fact clear to his clients by writing the following on the back window of his cab:
I don’t want money. I’ll exchange food for a ride.
He told the news website that over the last eight days, he has accepted food as payment three times. He received a whole chicken from one client, a bottle of cooking oil and corn flour from another, and two bags of pasta from a third.
Ramirez explained the reason for his decision to forego money:
I’m not interested in money right now. Bringing food home is my priority because I’ve got three children.
Indicative of both an inflation rate that as highest in the world means money affords less and less each day and the crippling scarcity crisis that forces Venezuelans to line up for hours to find food at regulated prices, Ramirez said:
I don’t do anything with money. I don’t have the luxury of taking a day off work to go buy food, but I still have a responsibility with my household of bringing in food each day.
Ramirez said that while some of his fellow taxi drivers initially ridiculed him for his move:
… when they see me with chicken and corn flour, they start thinking that it’s not such a crazy idea.
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