By Vladimir Hernandez
28 July 2016
(BBC) – It's one thing to talk to people you've never met before who are suffering from hunger, and it's a completely different thing when they are from your own family, as the BBC's Vladimir Hernandez discovered when he returned to his native Venezuela to report on its failure to get food on people's tables.
Travelling through the country this month I saw endless queues of people trying to buy food - any food - at supermarkets and other government-run shops.
I was stopped at a roadblock in the middle of the countryside by people who said they had eaten nothing but mangoes for three days.
I saw the hopeless expression of a mother, who had been eating so little that she was no longer able to breastfeed her baby.
I met a women affectionately known as la gorda - "the fat one" - whose protruding cheekbones indicated just how much weight she had lost in the last year.
I felt sympathy for all these people, but it was my family who really brought it home to me.
My brother told me all his trousers were now too big. My father - never one to grumble - let slip that things were "really tough". My mother, meanwhile, confessed that sometimes she only eats once a day. They all live in different parts of Venezuela, but none of them is getting enough to eat. It's a nationwide problem.
A study by three of the country's main universities indicates that 90% of Venezuelans are eating less than they did last year and that "extreme poverty" has jumped by 53% since 2014.
There are a number of causes - shortages of basic goods, bad management, a host of speculators and hoarders, and a severe drop in the country's oil income.
Plus, of course, the highest inflation rate in the world.
The country's official inflation rate was 180% in December, the last time a figure was made public, but the IMF estimates it will be above 700% by the end of the year. […]
"We've always been poor here, that's true, but we've never been hungry," said Zulay Florido, a community leader in her 50s.
"Since (President) Maduro took power we are in a very bad situation. We call it here 'the Maduro diet'.
"When Chavez was in power this didn't happen." [more]
By Daniel Kai, with additional reporting by Mircely Guanipa in Paraguana and Anggy Polanco in San Cristobal; Editing by Sandra Maler; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Sandra Maler
27 July 2016
CARACAS (Reuters) – Some 50 animals have starved to death in the last six months at one of Venezuela's main zoos, according to a union leader, due to chronic food shortages that have plagued the crisis-stricken South American nation.
The fatalities at the Caricuao zoo in Caracas include Vietnamese pigs, tapirs, rabbits and birds - some of whom had not eaten for two weeks, according to Marlene Sifontes, 52, a union leader for employees of state parks agency Inparques which oversees zoos.
Other animals are at risk across the country.
Their troubles mirror those of Venezuelans who routinely skip meals or spend hours in supermarket lines, at times chanting "We want food!" or even looting, amid an unprecedented economic downturn in the OPEC nation.
"The story of the animals at Caricuao is a metaphor for Venezuelan suffering," said Sifontes. […]
"We are doing all that is humanly possible to ensure the zoo continues to function," said Oslander Montoya, an accountant for the local municipality which handles funding for the zoo. [more]