Venezuela is in crisis, many of its people taking to the streets to protest against President Nicolas Maduro and his government, which they see as criminally negligent.
Hyperinflation is so extreme that Venezuelans cannot buy enough food and many of them are losing on average 11kg in body weight a year. This phenomenon has been ironically dubbed the “Maduro Diet”.
Many poorer Venezuelans were previously Maduro supporters, but as conditions worsened, their loyalty has shifted to the opposition, which is spearheading the calls for him to leave.
Maduro is refusing to give up power and opposition leader Juan Guaido has declared himself the interim president, splitting international opinion and setting the stage for a power struggle.
‘Nothing ever changes’
Aura Sarmiento told Al Jazeera about her small house in Guarataro, a lower-income neighbourhood in the capital Caracas. Anger is palpable in her voice.
“I’ve not had water for the past two years in my home…the closest [running water] is two miles away at the hospital… almost 500 people use one faucet,” she said.
Aura vents her anger at opposition rallies; she, like many other residents of Garataro, is disillusioned with the Chavismo government she once supported.
To draw attention to the lack of water in Guarataro, she picketed the Hidrocapital water company along with opposition politician Jesus Armas.
“We were even able to sit down with the director but nothing ever changes. They say they will fix the problem but they never do,” she said.
Aura had running water for just four days in 2018.
Not all impoverished Venezuelans are politically active; many are too focused on securing their families’ livelihoods.
“I don’t give it much thought,” said Alvaro, a resident of the Caracol neighbourhood of Caracas.
“My major worry is where the money for my family is coming from,” adds the 45-year-old father of eight, four from his first marriage and four with his current wife, Maria.
‘What I do to survive’
The minimum monthly salary in Venezuela is 18,000 bolivars ($5.47).
A bag of flour costs 2,600 bolivars ($0.79), a bag of rice 2,900 bolivars ($0.88) and a pound of potatoes 6,000 bolivars ($1.80). Buying those staples amounts to more than half a month’s wages.
Anderson, a 23-year-old blacksmith and father to a six month-year-old daughter, has lost his job and cannot buy any food. He has to dig through rubbish for scraps of food.
“I do this because I have to… some days I go back empty-handed and we go hungry. It’s either this or stealing, and I’m not a bad person. So this is what I do to survive,” Anderson said.