One person has been killed and dozens detained following the looting of a supermarket warehouse and other shops in Venezuela’s southeastern city of Ciudad Guayana.
Shoppers seeking scarce consumer staples, including milk, rice, and flour, broke into the warehouse on Friday, leading businesses in the area to shut their doors, local newspaper Correo del Caroni reported.
President Nicolas Maduro said the violence was premeditated and blamed the US for being behind it.
Maduro said US General John Kelly, Marine Corps commander of the Southern Command, had predicted in February that there would be a “social implosion” in Venezuela in July.
State governor Francisco Rangel, from the ruling Socialist Party, said the looting was politically motivated.
“A group of armed motorcyclists arrived and said they were going to loot certain establishments,” he told Venezuelan television station Globovision.
“I’m sure it wasn’t spontaneous but rather planned with a political motive.”
‘No one starving’
Rangel pushed back against opponents of Venezuela’s socialist government who attributed the unrest to widespread scarcities of basic goods across the oil-rich nation.
The governor said more than two dozen people were arrested in connection with the looting and added that there was no excuse for the behaviour. “No one is starving,” he said.
Venezuela has been grappling with worsening shortages of basic goods like cooking oil and flour.
The administration has adopted a variety of measures to address the situation and discourage hoarding, including fingerprinting shoppers who buy food at subsidised prices at supermarkets.
Officials also limit the days that people can buy certain products.
Few items are produced locally, and rigid currency controls and a scarcity of US dollars have made it increasingly difficult for Venezuelans to find imported products.
Price controls do not help either, with producers complaining that some goods are priced too low to make a profit and justify production.
The administration blames the shortages both on companies speculating with an eye towards future profits, and on black market vendors who buy groceries at subsidised prices and illegally resell them for several times the amount.