On Wednesday, 15 June 2016, more than 100 people in the western city of Maracaibo were arrested for looting that damaged dozens of businesses, according to the local governor, who supports the increasingly unpopular President Nicolas Maduro. Photo: Humberto Matheus / EPA

21 June 2016 (CBC) – The outlook for Venezuela appears to be dimming every day, and it's not just because of the country's daily four-hour mandatory blackouts.

The oil-exporting South American country is caught in a perfect storm of droughts, food and power shortages, and devastating inflation and recession caused by plummeting crude prices.

"We're not at war and we're living worse than in a war situation," Becky Jordan, a private school teacher in Caracas, told CBC's The Current. "I really have no idea how much longer people can take this."

President Nicolas Maduro, who took over following the death of longtime leader Hugo Chavez in 2013, faces mounting criticism and opposition as he tries, sometimes rather unconventionally, to find a solution.

Venezuela, an OPEC nation, relies heavily on oil for export earnings, and plummeting world prices have helped push its state-led economy into a deep recession.

Blackout in the Venezuela capital's El Calvario neighbourhood, where people took to the streets in anger over energy rationing. The power shortages are adding to existing concerns around inflation, food shortages and crime. Photo: Fernando Llano / AP

"Since Venezuela is about 96 per cent dependent on oil, we're only receiving about a third of the hard currency we were receiving as recently as a couple of years ago," Phil Gunson, senior analyst with International Crisis Group, told The Current.

The country also has the highest inflation in the world. […]

Venezuela's economic woes are exacerbated by water and electricity shortages.

The Guri Dam in the southeastern state of Bolivar, one of the world's largest, has seen unprecedented low levels of water, hitting a record low 243 metres in April.

The reservoir supplies up to 70 per cent of the nation's 16,000 megawatt power demand, and the government has begun rationing.

Maduro blames the drought on the El Niño weather phenomenon, but his critics say rationing could have been prevented had the government invested in maintenance and in the construction of thermoelectric plants — power stations that generate electricity with heat energy. [more]

'We're living worse than in a war': Venezuela's deepening economic crisis


A man who was waiting in line at a grocery store argues with a Bolivarian National Police officer as people continue to wait for food, sold at regulated prices, to arrive to the store in Caracas. Photo: Fernando Llano / Associated Press

By Nicholas Casey
19 June 2016

CUMANÁ, Venezuela (The New York Times) – With delivery trucks under constant attack, the nation’s food is now transported under armed guard. Soldiers stand watch over bakeries. The police fire rubber bullets at desperate mobs storming grocery stores, pharmacies and butcher shops. A 4-year-old girl was shot to death as street gangs fought over food.

Venezuela is convulsing from hunger.

Hundreds of people here in the city of Cumaná, home to one of the region’s independence heroes, marched on a supermarket in recent days, screaming for food. They forced open a large metal gate and poured inside. They snatched water, flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, potatoes, anything they could find, leaving behind only broken freezers and overturned shelves.

And they showed that even in a country with the largest oil reserves in the world, it is possible for people to riot because there is not enough food.

In the last two weeks alone, more than 50 food riots, protests and mass looting have erupted around the country. Scores of businesses have been stripped bare or destroyed. At least five people have been killed.

This is precisely the Venezuela its leaders vowed to prevent. [more]

Venezuelans Ransack Stores as Hunger Grips the Nation

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