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Venezuela…People Suffering from Hunger, Awaiting Political Solution | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An opposition supporter with a giant 100-bolivar note with the word, Hungry, written on it seen at a gathering to protest against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.REUTERS

Cairo-Months after the economic crisis that hit Venezuela due to the plunging oil prices and dehydration, Venezuelans’ hunger and their queuing to receive food have transformed into an international crisis.

Venezuela’s economic crisis — triggered by a drop in oil prices after a decade of excessive government spending, borrowing and corruption — has led to a shortage of medicine, food and other goods.

Meanwhile, President Nicolás Maduro, who has militarized cities in response to the crisis, is fighting a push for a recall referendum.

Recent polls show that 70% of Venezuelans agree that Maduro should go this year. However, the socialist leader keeps calling this an attempt of the opposition to call for foreign military intervention, showing no intention of peacefully leaving hus office

The Maduro camp argues the opposition has left the petition too late for a referendum this year, a claim his opponents vehemently contest. The issue of timing is critical. If Maduro is ousted after January 2017, his place can be passed to his vice-president, keeping power in the hands of the Socialist party.

The deep crisis Venezuela is facing has become a major subject in the exceptional meeting for the Organization of American States Council, which was held on Tuesday as Washington sent an envoy to Caracas.

Venezuela’s opposition and top government officials said on Saturday they met with a group of mediators in the Dominican Republic to lay the groundwork for a dialogue amid a political standoff and a deepening economic crisis.

Both sides said they met with former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and former presidents Martin Torrijos of Panama and Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department announced that Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken to Zapatero to welcome the initiative and said that the U.S. stood ready to help the mediators.

U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon flew to Caracas this week, following a meeting at the OAS between John Kerry and his counterpart, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodríguez.

Maduro insists his government is the victim of an “economic war” led by business leaders with the backing of Washington, which has been an ideological adversary of Caracas since the presidency of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

*Public Hunger

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.

Economists say years of economic mismanagement — worsened by low prices for oil, the nation’s main source of revenue — have shattered the food supply.

Hunger in Venezuela has become normal as people talk about the emptiness of their fridge on daily basis.

“My fridge is totally empty,” a Venezuelan lady said as she pointed out to her empty fridge shelves. Meanwhile, every day the number of Venezuelans suffering from hunger is increasing along with the worsening of the economic crisis in the country, according to a report released by AFP.

The retired woman, 64, who lives with her three children and three grandchildren, says she suffers to provide some food for her family as she waits every day in the queue just to buy two small bags of flour and pastries.

She also said: “We do not eat three times a day; instead, we eat in the morning and in the late afternoon in order not to let the children sleep hungry.”

Moreover, many basic commodities are no more found in the country, thus people are allowed to receive some food in a specific day in the week according to their

ID’s last number. They’d have to wait for hours in line without a guarantee that they would eventually receive what they need.

*Coup, Escalation

Maduro’s opponents in the centrist Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD) coalition are pushing for a referendum this year on whether to cut short his term.

The government launched a counter-maneuver, announcing fresh legal challenges against a petition filed by the opposition calling for a referendum.

The opposition is rushing to complete the recall process by January 10, the cutoff date to trigger new elections.

After that date, a successful recall vote would simply pass power to Maduro’s hand-picked vice president.

Venezuela’s government is considering asking the high court to dissolve the legislature controlled by President Nicolas Maduro’s opponents seeking to remove him from office.