The Maduro regime denies its once oil-rich country is in crisis. But on the streets the desperation cannot be hidden
Hunger is chewing at Venezuela, where both governments that claims to rule for the poorest has left most of its 31 million people short of food, many desperately so. As nighttime falls over Caracas, and most of the city’s occupants lock their doorways against its ever more violent streets, Adriana Velasquez gets ready for operate, heading out into an uncertain darkness as she has done since hunger forced her into the only job she could find at 14.
She was introduced to her brothel madam by a pal more than two years ago after her mom, a single parent, was fired and the two run out of meat.” It was really hard, but we were going to bed without eating ,” said the adolescent, whose epithet has been changed to protect her.
Since then Venezuela’s crisis has deepened, the number of women working at the brothel has doubled, and their ages have plummeted.” I was the youngest when I started. Now there are girls who are 12 or 13. Almost all of us are there because of the crisis, because of hunger .”
She earns 400,000 bolivares a month, around four times the minimum wage, but at a time of hyperinflation that is now merit about $30, barely enough to feed herself, her mother and a new child brother. She has signed up to evening class that operate before her nightly shifting, and be available to the working day escape from a job where” everything is ugly “.
Velasquez grew up in one of Caracas’s poorest and most violent districts, but Venezuela’s food crisis respects neither class nor geography. The pangs of hunger are seemed through the corridors of its major firms, behind the microphone on radio reveals, in hospitals where malnutrition is clambering sharply and already claiming lives, and at schools where children swoon and teachers skip grades to queue for food.
Nearly three-quarters of Venezuelans just lost weight over the past year, and the average loss was a huge 9kg, or almost a stone and a half, according to a poll by the country’s top universities. For many that is simply because meat is too expensive. Nine out of 10 homes can’t cover the cost of what they should eat.
And 10 million people hop-skip at the least one meal a day, often to help feed their children.
David Gonzalez , not his real epithet, had a college degree, a job and modest middle-class dreams of owning a car and a mansion before Venezuela slipped towards its current crisis, and spiralling inflation made the food he needed to stay alive unaffordable. In a coffeehouse in downtown Caracas, he explains how his daydreams shrank with his wasting body , now so emaciated that rib and collarbones poke through a once-chubby chest.
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