The nightmare of empty supermarket shelves and long lines to buy food has come true in one South American country. News reports out of Venezuela indicate that the country’s citizens are now standing in line for six hours or more, waiting to buy basic staples such as milk, flour and cooking oil.
Things have gotten so bad that President Nicolas Maduro is telling Venezuelans to grow gardens and raise chickens to feed themselves. Maduro has even formed a Ministry of Urban Farming to promote gardening.
“Cilia and I have 60 laying hens,” Maduro boasted in a speech, referencing his wife. “We produce everything we eat.”
Citizens are following Maduro’s call for self-reliance.
Josefina Requena, who lives in the nation’s capital, told NPR she walks to a local mountain to get dirt so she can plant vegetables.
“All my life, I’ve loved to plant all sorts of plants,” Requena said. “But over the past two years, things have become much more difficult, so I am taking gardening a little more seriously.”
Venezuela’s current rate of inflation is 141 percent, and the International Monetary Fund predicts it will hit 720 percent later this year, the BBC reported. Venezuela gets most of its income from oil.
There’s no Seeds for Farmers
Politics is also playing a role. Maduro blames the opposition for waging an economic war against him. In turn, the opposition blames Maduro himself and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, for the catastrophe.
“At least one in 10 people is eating two meals a day or less,” Phil Gunson, of the International Crisis Group, said of Venezuela. “There isn’t starvation. We are not talking about famine. But we are talking about malnutrition, particularly in the case of children.”
Gunson, though, said it will get only worse.
The opposition has declared a nutrition emergency, while Maduro has declared a food emergency.
In August there was a riot at a supermarket over bags of flour which ended in the death of one man shot by the National Guard. The Guard is a paramilitary police force.
Maduro has tried to hide the extent of the food shortage by banning the use of phones and cameras in supermarkets, DiarioLasAmericas.com reported.
Farmers, too, are experiencing major shortages.
“There is nothing — just like there’s no food, there are no seeds, no herbicides … and no medicines to vaccinate farm animals,” Vicente Perez, director of a farm organization called FEDEAGRO, told NPR.
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