Venezuelans starve as economy collapses

Venezuelans continue to suffer as food shortages plague the region, forcing them to wait in long lines outside of supermarkets, desperate for rations of rice or milk. Perched on flattened cardboard boxes, natives are gathering in lines at 3:00AM, spending the night outside grocery stores only to leave with nothing the next day.

At least 30 percent of Venezuelans are eating two or fewer meals a day, according to a national survey by pollster Consultores 21. Another 70 percent say they’ve stopped purchasing basic food items either because they’re too expensive or unavailable.

Currency controls in the socialist country restrict trade from countries like the US, resulting in severely overinflated food prices; that, along with the falling price of oil, has accelerated the economic collapse in the country.

To demonstrate just how inflated the prices of products have become, a single box of condoms now costs $755.

In Maracaibo, a city in the northwest, soldiers line the streets armed with riot shields, tear gas canisters and rifles as part of an effort called “Operation People’s Liberation,” named by the country’s President Nicolas Maduro.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The unrest is a response to dramatically worsening living conditions for Venezuelans as the economy reels from oil’s slump following more than a decade of populist spending that left the government broke.

In past years, when oil prices were high, Venezuela’s leftist government flooded markets with subsidized goods ranging from cooking oil to diapers. It gave citizens in border towns like La Sibucara not only access to cheap supplies, but also a source of income as many people trafficked products—including nearly free gasoline—to neighboring Colombia, drawing handsome profits.

With the government now struggling to pay for imports, there is less inventory to go around. In recent days, Mr. Maduro upped the ante by ordering troops along the border to seize contraband, deporting hundreds of Colombians whom the government blames for smuggling and shortages.

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