What makes Venezuela’s food crisis all the more grim is that experts agree it is a result of human decision-making. “It’s not due to droughts, or floods,” Deborah Hines, the World Food Program Representative in Colombia, told me. “The situation is purely political.” Far from alleviating the crisis, Maduro has made basic necessities contingent on political loyalty. In 2016, to preserve his support, he launched a government-subsidized food program, known as the Local Food Production and Provision Committees (claps). Venezuelans are eligible to receive a monthly food handout, and other benefits, as long as they register for the Fatherland Card, which officials use to track voting participation. clap boxes usually arrive late and half-empty, but, during election seasons, they are stuffed, and recipients like Vegas get text messages from local representatives such as “Love is repaid with love.”

For a while, the handouts seemed to be working as intended, but record-high abstention rates in last May’s Presidential contest suggested otherwise. Probably because Maduro knew he could not fully rely on the popular vote, he rigged the judicial branch and the electoral system in his favor, ultimately claiming to have won the election by almost seventy per cent of the vote. Vegas was among the millions of Venezuelans who stayed home and refused to cast their ballots. Over time, her loyalty to Chávez had waned, and she had grown disenchanted with the legacy of his revolution—a project that, in her view, has benefitted only a privileged élite. “This is a completely bankrupt country,” Vegas observed. “They want to talk about socialism, while we’re starving and they’re living a marvellous life. How could I support those people?”