Venezuela

Hungry Venezuelan women rush past border control in search of groceries

Venezuela gripped by hunger and riots

Across Venezuela, cities are erupting in protests and looting over food shortages. Nicholas Casey, The New York Times’s Andes bureau chief, and the photographer Meridith Kohut provide a view from the ground.
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Across Venezuela, cities are erupting in protests and looting over food shortages. Nicholas Casey, The New York Times’s Andes bureau chief, and the photographer Meridith Kohut provide a view from the ground.

Dozens of Venezuelan women broke through a barricade along the Venezuelan-Colombian border on Tuesday with one goal in mind: finding food.

Local media in the Colombian border town of Cúcuta, estimated that more than 100 people — mostly women — defied Venezuela’s border patrol and swarmed the frontier to do their shopping.

Inflation and falling oil prices have led to dramatic food shortages in Venezuela, and the border state of Táchira has been particularly hard-hit. In recent weeks, there have been widespread reports of looting and food riots.

“We decided to cross the border because there’s no food in our homes and our children are hungry,” one unnamed woman told Cúcuta’s La Opinion newspaper.

Venezuela unilaterally shut down its 1,274-mile border with Colombia beginning in August of last year, saying that its subsidized goods were being smuggled out. At the time, Colombian border towns were full of Venezuelan products, including rice, flour, and cheaper-than-water gasoline.

The open defiance of Venezuela’s military comes as the country is in a deep economic, social, and political crisis.

Independence Day

On Tuesday, Venezuela’s Independence Day, President Nicolás Maduro led a military rally and suggested the country is being targeted by foreign powers and their allies in Venezuela’s opposition.

He said the current socialist administration was “the most beautiful constructed in the last 205 years”and warned those trying to topple it that “sooner rather than later we’ll see our final victory.”

Despite the clear jabs at the United States, the two nations have been inching toward rapprochement in recent weeks.

U.S. Message

“My government recognizes that the past year has been an extremely difficult one for the Venezuelan people,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in a letter marking Venezuela’s independence. “You face many economic challenges that have led to political divisions and severe hardships.”

“In the year ahead, I look forward to working with you and with your leaders to build upon the cooperation and friendship that has guided our relationship through most of the past two centuries,” he added.

The day before, on July 4th, Maduro said he was open to restoring diplomatic ties with the U.S. based on respect. The two nations haven’t had ambassadors since 2010, and previous attempts at rapprochement have fallen short.

The women shoppers also seemed to be tuned into the Independence Day spirit. In a video posted by La Opinión, the women are singing the Venezuelan national anthem as they wait to cross the border again, this time with full bags.

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