Looting Grows in Venezuela as Blackout Continues

Venezuela’s government has ordered schools and businesses to remain closed on Monday as a power cut drags into a fifth day. The opposition says at least 17 people have reportedly died as a result of the blackout. Residents in the capital, Caracas, told the BBC’s Will Grant of their growing despair.

Each hour that passes without power in Venezuela brings more havoc and stress to a country already on edge.

Pro-government motorcycle gangs, known here as “colectivos”, roam the dark streets enforcing order at gunpoint while there were sporadic episodes of looting amid the desperation.

By its very nature, a clear picture of the blackout has been difficult to obtain over the past four days.

Many parts of the country are still cut off and it is hard to get a full account of their situation. Even when the electricity returns, it is often patchy and only lasts for a few hours before dropping out once again.

What is clear, though, is that since the power outage hit on Thursday, huge swathes of Venezuela have been struggling to cope.

Without internet, mobile phones, banks, credit-card machines, electric cookers or air-conditioning, ordinary life is bordering on the unbearable for many people, especially in low income communities.

On the edge

Little wonder some are ready to snap. “I have a two-year-old son. Yesterday evening there was nothing to eat,” Majorie says, visibly angry outside a supermarket in the Terrazas del Club Hípico neighbourhood in Caracas.

A shop near her home was looted, she says, and a neighbour gave her some boiled rice.

“I liquidised it, added a little sugar and fed it to my son. But today when he asks me for food, what am I going to give him? I can put up with the hunger. As adults, all we need is a glass of water. But what’s a child supposed to do?”

Behind us as we speak, a group of mothers, equally desperate and distressed, start to bang on the doors of the shuttered supermarket, demanding to be let in.

Inside, the cash registers and card machines were not working and the staff were only accepting US dollars in payment.

“We don’t use dollars in this country, we don’t earn in dollars, we earn in Bolivars”, says Majorie, her voice rising once more. “We don’t want to loot stores, we don’t want to cause problems. What we want is food. We’re hungry.”

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