In Venezuela, food is so scarce people padlock the refrigerator

The Wall Street Journal has a story up today which really brings home how devastating the crisis in Venezuela has become for many people, especially vulnerable children. The piece is titled “Venezuela is starving” and it notes that food is so scarce and so valuable now that people are putting padlocks on their refrigerators:

Hordes of people, many with children in tow, rummage through garbage, an uncommon sight a year ago. People in the countryside pick farms clean at night, stealing everything from fruits hanging on trees to pumpkins on the ground, adding to the misery of farmers hurt by shortages of seed and fertilizer. Looters target food stores. Families padlock their refrigerators….

“To eat,” said Sergio Jesus Sorjas, 11 years old, “I sometimes go to the butcher and I say, ‘Sir, do you have any bones you can give me?’ ”

The boy receives nutritional formula or a traditional Venezuelan corncake from the parish priest. Sergio said he hasn’t tasted meat in months: “Sometimes, I don’t eat at all.”

Even farm animals are starving. Alberto Troiani operates a hog farm passed to him by his family. Now he says his remaining hogs are all malnourished and sometimes bite and ear or tail off another hog because they are starving. Alberto gets 93 cents per kilo of meat when he takes his hogs to slaughter, but the cost of feeding and caring for the animals means he needs $1.17 to be profitable. He’s thinking about leaving the country.

In the midst of all of this is the socialist ideology of the ruling party. Expropriation of businesses by the government has been a calamity which has only made the nation more dependent on its sole export: oil.

The agricultural companies the government has taken over, including milk factories and distributors of fertilizer and feed, are closed or barely operating, according to economists and farm groups.

“The system is created so you can’t win,” said Alberto Cudemus, who heads the national association of pig farmers. “The government thinks its survival is in communism, not in us, not with production. And that’s where they’re wrong.”

Roughly 20% of children under 5 are suffering from malnutrition and many of the children are dying in hospitals which don’t have food, medicine, or even vitamins to give them. And there’s little hope the situation will improve without some change at the top. Ninety percent of Venezuelans can’t afford the food they need. One-third are surviving on two meals a day, which they’ve dubbed “the Maduro diet” after the country’s socialist President.

The entire WSJ story is worth a read and the photos bring home how desperate this crisis has become.

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