Venezuela is convulsing from hunger. Hundreds of people here in the city of Cumaná, home to one of the region’s independence heroes, marched on a supermarket in recent days, screaming for food. They forced open a large metal gate and poured inside. They snatched water, flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, potatoes, anything they could find, leaving behind only broken freezers and overturned shelves.I have no idea how this will play out. Things just keep getting worse, with no sign that the government has any idea of how to fix the situation. If they went grovelling to the World Bank they could probably get an emergency loan to buy staple food, but that would mean surrendering to the forces of neoliberal global capitalism, opposition to which has been one of the main pillars of Chavismo. The regime emerged from the army and the officer corps has been stacked with Chávez loyalists, so a coup seemed unlikely. But if there is no regime change, how does this end?
In the last two weeks alone, more than 50 food riots, protests and mass looting have erupted around the country. Scores of businesses have been stripped bare or destroyed. At least five people have been killed. . . .
The nation is anxiously searching for ways to feed itself.
The economic collapse of recent years has left it unable to produce enough food on its own or import what it needs from abroad. Cities have been militarized under an emergency decree from President Nicolás Maduro, the man Mr. Chávez picked to carry on with his revolution before he died three years ago.
“If there is no food, there will be more riots,” said Raibelis Henriquez, 19, who waited all day for bread in Cumaná, where at least 22 businesses were attacked in a single day last week.
But while the riots and clashes punctuate the country with alarm, it is the hunger that remains the constant source of unease.
A staggering 87 percent of Venezuelans say they do not have money to buy enough food, the most recent assessment of living standards by Simón Bolívar University found.
Incidentally Venezuela's turmoil has boiled over into Spanish politics. The leaders of Spain's new left-wing party Podemos were all inspired by Chavismo and some of them worked for the Chávez government, and their opponents have been all over the airwaves reminding the voters of this. Moderate politicians love having a failed radical state they can point to as an example of what might easily go wrong should their own radicals take over.