Crisis and controversy in Venezuela: while hunger grows, the government celebrates Food Day

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President Nicolás Maduro affirmed that he continues to guarantee access to food. But the minimum wage is barely enough for a kilo of rice.

In the midst of an uncontrolled hyperinflation, a backdrop to the deep economic crisis that pulverized purchasing power and prevents thousands of families from Venezuela buy basic foods, many citizens repudiated the commemoration of World Food Day by the government of Nicolás Maduro.

Antonieta Ríos, a 49-year-old designer, assured the ANSA agency that reality “is so bitter and sad that there is no reason to celebrate anything because here we are all going very hungry.”

“I have had to sell my appliances to buy some food and not always all of us eat in the house,” he lamented.

In turn, Leo Castro, 32, commented that he has had to work “for food because with this quarantine, without income and no state aid, we have to solve.”

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated a crisis that had already left millions of people in poverty and destitution and that has led to an exodus estimated by the UN at about 5 million people since Maduro came to power in 2013.

“Of three meals that one had before, now they hardly make one. You have to look in the garbage for something to eat because everything is very expensive,” said Castro.

Carlos Valero, a deputy to the National Assembly (the Parliament, with an opposition majority) blamed Maduro for “having placed us in the first places in the statistics of the worst fed countries in the world.”

“According to the FAO, in Venezuela hunger tripled in recent years,” he said.

In turn, Congressman Angel Alvarado specified that a family of four “needs 6,956,250 bolivars or $ 15.24 per week to cover the caloric load for survival, equivalent to 60% of the needs based on non-perishable food.”

But the minimum wage in Venezuela is 400,000 bolivars, less than a dollar, which is barely enough to buy a kilo of rice.

It is a reality that represents “enormous challenges” for the country, made difficult by the economic blockade and the pandemic, warned Rolf Hackbart, representative of the United Nations for Food and Agriculture (FAO) in Venezuela.

According to Parliament’s Finance Committee, the price of the Food Basket for September was $ 211, an amount that most Venezuelans cannot afford.

“The Venezuelan is not eating but is mitigating his appetite,” said Marianela Herrera, from the Venezuelan Health Observatory.

He stressed that, “if before the lack of food was dramatic, now there is a supply where imported products persist because national production has fallen, but there is no purchasing power.”

“People are consuming two or three foods plus they are basically carbohydrates with a little bit of fat,” he said.

In this sense, he warned that this bad nutrition generates fatigue, weight loss, lethargy and lack of energy in adults, while in children, iron deficiency, delayed growth and height, cognitive problems, and promotes the interruption of human capital development.

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