Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela announces new plan to tackle food crisis

A rally in support of the government's food distribution programs in Caracas. June 8 2016 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rallies were held in support of the government's food distribution programme in Caracas

The Venezuelan government says it has imported thousands of tons of basic foodstuffs and will begin distributing them through communal councils directly to family homes.

In Caracas the Food Minister, Rodolfo Marco Torres, said 70% of the country's food would be supplied in this way.

The Venezuelan opposition says the new system could discriminate against them.

The country has been badly hit by the fall in oil prices and is suffering severe shortages in food and medicines.

President Nicolas Maduro has accused private food production companies and supermarkets of hoarding food for speculation.

Mr Torres said the government had purchased 115,000 tons of basic goods including rice, sugar, maize and beans.

He said this would be distributed using a network of 15,900 so called Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP) established across the country to fight what President Maduro has called the "economic war" it says it is waging with the country's business elite and opposition groups.

The government has said the new system will distribute food "house by house" to thousands of families who will be expected to register for the system.

They will receive bags containing various basic products including maize flour, pasta, rice and oil.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption People have grown used to waiting for hours in queues from the early hours to buy scarce basic foodstuffs

The Venezuelan opposition have argued CLAP will only make the lack of basic goods worse since it will divert scarce food to the new system.

Last week the secretary general of the opposition coalition (MUD) Jesus Torrealba said the government was "trying to create an absolute monopoly on the distribution of food".

He said the system could become "politicized" and the government was "blackmailing the people through their stomach".

But the government's CLAP director, Freddy Bernal said half of basic goods would be supplied to the private sector.

There have been daily protests across the country over food shortages and incidents of looting.

On Monday there were reports that a woman died after being hit by a stray bullet when police opened fire on looters trying to ransack a warehouse in the western city of San Cristobal.

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