Cops join the looting in Venezuela as food shortages worsen

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Food shortages have become so serious in Venezuela that even police officers are occasionally getting in on the looting of supermarkets and supply trucks.

The trend, which has been captured in photos and video several times, surfaced again on Thursday when a truckload of sugar was raided by dozens of people in downtown Caracas.

According to local media outlets, National Guardsmen initially tried to confiscate the truck when the driver couldn't produce the appropriate paperwork.


But hell broke loose when a group of desperate people raided the truck and tried to make off with the sacks of sugar.

A video shot by bystanders shows men on motorcycles riding off with 100-lb sacks of sugar.


Amidst the mayhem, one Twitter user captured a picture of a Venezuelan policeman walking away quietly with a giant bag of sugar slung over his back.


It's not the first time that Venezuelan police have been caught in the act. In July, bystanders in the eastern city of Cumana captured this video of policemen whisking goods into their patrol car as people looted a warehouse.


Venezuelan food production has been crippled over the past five years by a series of ill-conceived economic policies that include strict price controls on most basic goods and the expropriation of dozens of companies.


To make things worse, the government's budget has dwindled over the past two years due to falling oil prices, which makes it harder to import goods into the largely unproductive nation.

The crisis has resulted in a situation where 44% of Venezuelans are eating only two meals a day, according to a study conducted in June by pollster Venebarometro. The same study estimated that 17% of Venezuelans are limited to just one meal a day.


Meanwhile protests over food and incidents of looting are on the rise. According to the Venezuelan Observatory on Social Conflict, a think tank, there were 89 lootings or attempted lootings across Venezuela in August. That's four times as many lootings as there were in Venezuela in August of last year.

The growing desperation was evident in the streets of Caracas on Thursday as people who didn't manage to steal a sack of sugar from the looted truck, used their bare hands to scoop some of the sugar that had spilled on the street.


It looks like in desperate times, nothing can be left to waste.

Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.

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