Revolutionary Hunger in Venezuela

Looking in the trash for something to eat has become an alternative for some Venezuelans.  (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reyes Theis, Caracas, 26 June 2018 — “My husband and I eat only vegetables, yucca or potato, we leave for the kids what the box brings.  Sometimes I give them rice with butter in the morning and another little bit at night.”  So says Aurimar, seated on the wall of the San Bernardino church, sheltering herself from the sun, as she waits for the community soup that is delivered every Saturday to needy people.  She is 26 years old but looks older.

Aurimar has three children, the youngest five months, but she is surrounded by more children.  “They are my nieces and nephews.  I bring ten in all, because they have nothing to eat, either,” she explains.

The young woman lives in a house in a popular part of San Bernardino with her partner, a security guard who earns the Venezuelan minimum wage set at 2,555,500 bolivars (a dollar a month on the black market exchange rate).  A kilo of meat is worth between four and five million bolivars. continue reading

The box from the Local Production and Supply Committees (CLAP) helps the family a lot in feeding their kids, but it is not enough.  “It comes once a month and doesn’t last,” laments Aurimar.

The box which the Government sells through a network associated with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) may contain rice, lentils, beans, powdered milk, oil, corn flour and pasta.  Most of the products are from Mexico and of questionable quality.  A newspaper investigation revealed the low quality of the powdered milk which also has a high sodium content and low protein, which can cause health problems for consumers.

Other works by journalists and the National Assembly have denounced a framework of corruption around CLAP, and the former attorney general of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Diaz, has accused Nicolas Maduro’s presumed front men of being involved in the bad management of that assistance program.

In order to get the CLAP box, one must have the Heritage ID, an instrument of political and social control that was widely used in the presidential election of last May 20.

Aurimar says that in her home they rarely taste animal protein, “that’s why we appreciate the attention they give us in the Church,” she comments.

Father Numa Rivero is a native of Puerto Cumarebo, in the state of Falcon, and was assigned as parish priest of San Bernardino in January 2017.  “One day I was in the office, I heard noises and was startled to see what was happening.  There were people eating from the trash.  It really moved me because I had never seen that even when I was in India,” he says.

The priest then started the solidarity pot project by which parishioners donate food that is prepared by volunteers.  “In March of last year we started giving out 80 bowls of soup, currently we give about 180.  We give it first to the children, then to the elderly, if anything is left we send it to the area’s nursing homes where there is also a lot of malnutrition,” he explains.

The solidarity pots have multiplied across the country, thanks to a combination of private initiatives and religious organizations like Caritas, an association of the Catholic Church very active in humanitarian assistance whose fundamental purpose in Venezuela is to find cases of malnutrition in children in order to be able to help them, assist the family in recovery and refer to the public health system those cases that warrant it, says its website.

In its corresponding report at the end of the fourth quarter of 2017 and with data from 42 parishes in seven of the country’s states, Caritas found 66.6% of children evaluated already had some level of nutritional deficit or were at risk of it.

In terms of the seriousness of the malnutrition, the records indicated that 16.2% of children had moderate or sever malnutrition (global acute malnutrition), 20.9% mild, 30.3% are at risk of malnutrition and barely 32.6% have no nutritional deficit.

Maria Carolina is a senior technician in administration and administrative manager in a medium-sized company.  Her salary comes to about 10 million bolivars (some four dollars) and she lives with her 12-year old son and her elderly mother.  Each of them has lost about 20% of their body weight in the last year, and blood test results show the three have anemia and are receiving low nutrient levels.

“The CLAP box arrives once a month, but it’s not enough.  Also, my money doesn’t go far enough to buy cheese, meat or chicken,” she complains.  Pasta with tomato sauce or plain rice are part of their diet.

The Bengoa Foundation, a private, non-profit organization, has been investigating the Venezuelan food reality.  “There was a very critical period in the Soviet Union during which its people lost on average six kilograms of weight.  The first measurement of the survey about Conditions of Life in Venezuela (Encovi) in 2016 said that the average Venezuelan weight loss was around eight kilos, and we are now going on 11 kilos,” comments Marianela Herrera, doctor and member of its board.

The doctor explains that for an average adult man of 70 kilos, the loss of 11 kilos represents more than 10% of body mass in a year.  “It is serious,” she says.  In the case of children, the situation is even more critical.

In a survey that the Bengoa Foundation did in conjunction with the Andres Bello Catholic University, when they measured children between zero and two years of age, 33% of the children under three years of age in a representative sample of Venezuelans was suffering stunted growth according to the height-age index.

“This worries us greatly, it is a serious problem because in the first 1,000 days children must be protected because that is when the brain develops.  It is when proper interventions can be made for them to recover and it is when problems manifest themselves that later are going to be very hard to solve, like cognitive development.  Then that child will not be teachable or he is going to drop out of school, because he will feel that he can’t,” says Herrera.  She adds that the child will have in the future a significant risk of suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes or cancer.

The cases of Aurimar and Maria Carolina confirm the findings about the pattern of food consumption in Venezuela.

Pre-cooked corn flour has been replaced by Mexican flour from the CLAP boxes, which is not enriched with vitamins and minerals, and there is a great increase in the consumption of tubers.  Animal protein has practically disappeared from the Venezuelan table.

“It is serious that only yucca, yams and rice are being eaten.  The diet should be varied so that there is a contribution of micronutrients, essential nutrients, calories, proteins and healthy fats that meet the human being’s requirements.  A normal pattern is what we had before:  Between 35 and 40 different foods per day.  If you take the number of foods that were in a creole breakfast:  corn cakes, butter, scrambled eggs with onion and tomato, cheese, coffee and juice, we have there at least ten foods,” explains the doctor.

The serious Venezuelan nutritional situation is a result of the collapse of purchasing power.  Venezuela suffers currently from the highest inflation in the world, at 1,995.2%, according to the National Assembly.  The expropriations, confiscations and controls carried out by the Bolivarian Revolutions have weakened the Venezuelan private sector.

Inflation makes prices vary daily and the effect is exacerbated by the black market in currency, which has run wild because the country depends on imports.  These two factors mean the average citizen doesn’t have enough money to buy essential goods, and if he does have it, he probably cannot find the product.

This is why many Venezuelans rummage through garbage containers in search of food.  Nevertheless, it is surprising that well-dressed mothers are doing the same.


The alliance of Vencuba with 14ymedio and the Venezuelan daily Tal Cual has allowed the production of this reportage.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

In Venezuela, Gagging the Press is a Revolutionary Priority

“Without a Free Press There is Dictatorship.” Venezuela ranks 143 out of the 180 countries analyzed in Reporters Without Borders’ latest report on press freedom. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reyes Theis, Caracas, 3 May 2018 — The similarities between Cuba and Venezuela are becoming more and more evident, and it is not only about ideological coincidences and the repetition of empty and propagandistic ideas. Their daily realities are increasingly similar and the arbitrary designs of their regimes coincide in treating the press as enemies.

Anyone who visits Caracas, after years away, will find a city very different from the one they knew. Garbage in the streets, potholes, deteriorated buildings and an aging vehicle fleet are evidence of a decomposition that advances like a cancer in the urban landscape.

On the sidewalks one can see long lines of people who rise early to wait in front of supermarkets to get some food that will allow them to survive, people rummaging through the garbage to eat, children wandering alone with dirty clothes and barefoot, and perhaps the faces of some pedestrians, eyes lost and tears flowing. If you go to a hospital, the drama becomes even greater in the absence of supplies. continue reading

It is difficult to find, on the first page of the main newspapers of national or regional circulation, the economic and social crisis that Venezuela is experiencing. The largest in the country, Últimas Noticias and El Universal, were sold several years ago in non-transparent transactions and have fallen into the hands of consortiums whose owners are presumed to be friends of the Government. They have completely changed their editorial positions and in their pages they basically print the official speeches, while the positions of the dissidence are silenced or manipulated and the publicity is governmental. The most prestigious journalists have been dismissed or have resigned before the clearly demonstrated lack of ethics.

The restrictions of the state monopoly on the sale of newsprint, added to the impossibility of accessing foreign currency to import it, are why a good part of the printed media have stopped circulating or had to limit themselves to publishing online.

Last April the newspaper El Tiempo of Puerto La Cruz, 60 years after its founding, had to become a weekly, a step prior to the final closure of the printed version, also tried by other newspapers in an attempt to stretch the available paper to the maximum, like Tal Cual, which now has only its online version.

The circulation of at least 42 newspapers has been affected since 2013 according to the Press and Society Institute (IPYS). Of these, 19 cancelled their printed editions permanently, while the other 23 newspapers temporarily paused their publication. In addition, more than 50 newspapers have had to reduce their print-runs, circulation, and staffing to address the shortages, not only of newsprint but other equipment and supplies, that are necessary for to print and sell papers.

Some of the printed newspapers forced to suspend their publication were La Región (Sucre), El Impulso (Lara) Diario Los Andes ( Mérida), Ciudad Maturín (Monagas), and El Mío (Anzoátegui).

In its latest report, IPYS noted that “the aggressions, threats, abuse of state power, misinformation, opacity and various forms of censorship, marked 2017 as the year of the greatest obstacles to the exercise of journalism in Venezuela.”  The monitoring and alert system of this organization detected at least 518 cases that amounted to 1087 violations of freedom of expression.

The cases included 507 aggressions and attacks against journalists and the media, 283 limitations on access to public information, 250 cases of abusive use of state power in communications, 22 administrative legal actions, 10 cases of internal censorship, eight cases of prior censorship, six aggressions with the use of norms that hinder freedom of expression and a case of impunity.

Carlos Correa, director of the NGO Espacio Público, explains that within the framework of the vision of the Chavista governments, various strategies were developed to strike journalists and media outlets. “The first strategy was the public  disparagement, the attacks with impunity by people who did not identify themselves as officials. But since 2014, in the context of the protests, the officials are the ones who beat the journalists.”

Last year the assaults were also carried out on media workers who covered the intense protests that shook the country. But the image of a journalist being dragged by her hair by 16 members of the National Guard at the headquarters of the Supreme Court of Justice went viral and the brutality of the repressive forces was considered shocking.

The protagonist of the story was the Univisión correspondent in Venezuela, Elyangélica González, who after that incident left the country and continues working for the network, now in the United States.

“I was narrating an action by the colectivos (pro-government paramilitary groups) against students who were demonstrating before the Superior Court of Justice while the Guardia did absolutely nothing, I was attacked by more than 16 officials, although the worst came later: persecutions and threats that made me leave the country, because my family and my safety were at risk, there was an intention to silence a reality,” she explains by telephone.

Restrictions on the exercise of journalism do not occur only on the street. The management of the media and the editorial boards are other arenas to fight a battle different in form, but implicitly carrying the same objective: to censor the stories that can embarrass the company, for fear of the measures that the regime could take.

“In Venevisión, they never told me something would not be aired,” González says. “I would just finish my work, og away and they would tell me in an editorial meeting that a news item should not come out, or they cut it or used only the sound (an interview of a few seconds), so that no one could say it wasn’t aired. But I was not involved, if they did not agree with my perspective on the reporting, they would say to me, ’This can not be done like this.’ Then it would be silenced. A presenter gave the information, without analysis, without depth and just the sound.”

González points out that on the radio station where she worked in Venezuela, she was reminded that she should be impartial. “But they forbade us to talk about some issues and that is not impartiality, it is censorship,” she adds.

The restrictions on access to information sources are also a reality that Venezuelan journalists must face. There is an express prohibition for any public official to speak to private media and entities such as the Central Bank of Venezuela or the Ministry of Health conceal statistics that should be public knowledge.

One of the few information sources of the public power open to journalists is the National Assembly, with an opposition majority, but the intention of the absolute silencing of information has moved the National Guard to even prevent access fo r the media to the Federal Legislative Palace, the seat of the Venezuelan Parliament.

Carlos Correa also highlights the package of laws passed to prevent the free expression of ideas, such as the reform of the Criminal Code, the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television and recently the Law against Hate, approved by the self-proclaimed National Constituent Assembly.

“Officials who express their critical opinions have been punished very hard, and we have documented more than 80 arrests through application of the Hate Law as a result of officials making statements,” said the director of Espacio Público.

According to the study by the Press and Society Institute, the National Telecommunications Commission, the governing body on the subject, shut down 54 radio stations last year. “These have been the most abusive and disproportionate measures that Conatel has exercised in the last 12 years, according to the analysis conducted by IPYS Venezuela,” he says.

The report details that radio stations such as 92.9 Tu FM and Mágica 91.1 FM were recognized among the most recently affected media. “On August 25, 2017, the state agency did not renew the concession and, immediately after, their signals were replaced by other stations called Radio Corazón Llanero and Radio Vinotinto FM, respectively, and shortly after that, on September 5, Conatel shut down the station 88.1 FM Fe y Alegría, in the city of Maracaibo, and hours later it revoked the order without any explanations.”

According to the IPYS Venezuela registry, in 2017 the number of national radio stations censored was 49.

Of the radio station, 24 left the air during the citizen demonstrations that began on April 1, “in a context in which citizen liberties were usurped in Venezuela under a decree of a state of emergency,” IPYS said.

Some television channels did not escape from these actions. On July 16, the television channel of the Universidad de los Andes in Mérida, ULA TV, was also closed by Conatel, under the excuse of missing documents. In Santa Cruz de Mora and Tovar, in the state of Merida, the entity also closed the local television stations ZeaTv and Televisora Cultural de Tovar.

On August 24, Conatel also removed Colombian television channels Caracol TV and RCN from the programming grid, and between 2014 and 2017, six foreign television stations have left the cable programming grid by express order of the state agency. The other television channels that were suspended were CNN En Español (US), El Tiempo Televisión (Colombia), Todo Noticias (Argentina) and Antena 3 (Spain), says the report.

Faced with the onslaught against conventional media such as radio, television and the written press, journalistic research and information have taken refuge in real time on the Internet. But the censoring arm of the regime has arrived there, too, although with more difficulty, mostly because of the technical complications.

Venezuela is among the last places of the continent in terms of internet speed, but to this we must add constant blockades and hacks of independent journalism portals, such as

In times of political turmoil the blockades become more evident and IPYS Venezuela confirmed through its National Network of correspondents that in April 2017 users in five cities in the country could not access the coverage of citizen protests offered by the news portals VPI TV, Vivo Play and Capitolio TV. The organization said that these digital television channels were censored by five internet providers, both state and private.

It is no surprise then that Venezuela has recorded the biggest drop in the continent in terms of press freedom, losing six positions to be ranked 143 out of the 180 countries analyzed in Reporters Without Borders’ latest report.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.