The flamingo-eating, wild-horse-slaying, rabbit-breeding-for-food utopian society is falling apart as Reuters reports that while truck heists have long been common in Latin America’s major economies from Mexico to Brazil, looting of cargoes on roads has soared in Venezuela in recent times.
With hunger and scarcity widespread around its crisis-hit economy, Venezuela has seen a frightening upsurge of attacks on its increasingly anarchic roads in recent weeks.
“Every time I say goodbye to my family, I entrust myself to God and the Virgin,” says 36-year-old Venezuelan trucker Humberto Aguilar.
Just a few days earlier, Aguilar said he sat terrified when hundreds of looters swarmed a stationary convoy, overwhelming drivers by sheer numbers. They carted off milk, rice and sugar from other trucks but left his less-prized vegetables alone.
Reuters adds that across Venezuela, there were some 162 lootings in January, including 42 robberies of trucks, according to the consultancy Oswaldo Ramirez Consultores (ORC), which tracks road safety for companies. That compared to eight lootings, including one truck robbery, in the same month of last year.
“The hunger and despair are far worse than people realize, what we are seeing on the roads is just another manifestation of that. We’ve also been seeing people stealing and butchering animals in fields, attacking shops and blocking roads to protest their lack of food. It’s become extremely serious,” said ORC director Oswaldo Ramirez.
Eight people have died in the lootings in January of this year, according to a Reuters tally.
The dystopian attacks in a country with one of the world’s highest murder rates are pushing up transport and food costs in an already hyperinflationary environment, as well as stifling movement of goods in the crisis-hit OPEC nation.
They have complicated the perilous life of truckers who already face harassment from bribe-seeking soldiers, spiraling prices for parts, hours-long lines for fuel, and who are banned from carrying guns by law.
“The government gives us no security. It’s madness. People have got used to the easy life of robbing,” said Javier Escalante, who owns two trucks that take vegetables from La Grita to the town of Guatire outside Caracas every week.
“But if we stop, how do we earn a living for our families? How do Venezuelans eat? And how do the peasant farmers sell their produce? We have no choice but to keep going.”
It's not all biker-gangs, the looters use tree trunks and rocks to stop vehicles, and are particularly fond of “miguelitos” - pieces of metal with long spikes - to burst tires and halt vehicles. In some cases, crowds simply swarm at trucks when they stop for a break or repairs. Soldiers or policemen seldom help, according to interviews with two dozen drivers.