Venezuela

Poll finds 30% of Venezuelans often eat only once a day

Facing severe food and medicine shortages, Venezuelans are increasingly open to extreme options like foreign intervention and leaving the country in order to stay alive, according to a new study.

A poll by Meganalisis released Monday found 84.3 percent of those surveyed would favor a multinational “intervention” if it brought large amounts of food and medicine to the country. And 20.5 percent — or the equivalent of 6 million people — say they’ll leave the once-wealthy South American nation if President Nicolás Maduro remains in power and the economic situation doesn’t change.

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Meganalisis Vice President Ruben Chrino Leañez said the government’s inability to provide basic necessities has opened the doors to options that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

“There’s a level of desperation and hopelessness in the country that has people saying ‘Let’s get aid regardless of how it comes in or where it comes in from,” he said.

The poll seems to contradict other studies that show Venezuelans are overwhelmingly against a foreign military incursion. But Chirino argues that if that multinational force is seen as a way to deliver humanitarian aid rapidly and efficiently, then it becomes palatable.

Meganalisis surveyed 1,100 people in 16 of the most populous states for the study, which has a margin of error of 3.3 percent.

At the root of the country’s malaise is hunger. Asked about their weekly eating habits, 30.5 percent said they often ate only once a day and 28.5 percent reported that they ate “nothing or close to nothing” at least one day a week. In all, 78.6 percent reported trouble keeping themselves fed.

Venezuela is oil rich but poor in everything else. Despite vast and fertile lands, the country only produces 30 percent of the food it consumes. The rest is imported. But as government’s oil wealth has been hit by falling prices, plummeting output and corruption, the administration is struggling to keep its people fed. In addition, hyperinflation and draconian price and currency controls are exacerbating the shortages.

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The government claims there is no hunger crisis and that its foes are planning a military invasion under the guise of a humanitarian intervention.

On Saturday, 11 of the 14 countries that make up the Lima Group issued a statement rejecting “any action or statement that implies a military intervention in Venezuela.”

What’s clear, however, is that hunger is one of the main factors that has forced 1.6 million people to flee since 2015, according to the United Nations.

And the Meganalisis report suggests those numbers could increase dramatically.

When Venezuelans were asked what they will do if Maduro stays in power and the country’s economic situation doesn’t change, 34.7 percent said they would remain in the country trying to weather the crisis. But 20.5 percent said they would leave. In a nation of 30 million people, that could mean an additional 6 million fleeing Venezuelans. The remainder said they would “join the resistance” or engage in street protests.

Of those, 15 percent said they planned to leave the country before the end of 2018 and 32 percent said they planned to leave by June 2019. Colombia, Perú, Ecuador and Chile were the top four most-cited destinations.

“When you have this many people who are willing to give up everything and start over from zero in another country, you can imagine the level of despair and hopelessness,” Chirino said. “It’s a situation that has no precedent in the hemisphere.”

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