Caracas, June 16, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities arrested over 400 during widespread looting in the eastern coastal city of Cumana on Tuesday.
Police and National Guard personnel were mobilized throughout the city amid civil unrest that saw lootings in as many as 100 private businesses, including restaurants, liquor stores, bakeries, and supermarkets, according to the local chamber of commerce.
State security personnel affiliated with the Maduro government’s anti-crime operation, OLP, were deployed to Cumana this Thursday, leading to the arrest of three in the early hours of the morning.
Educational activities were suspended for the remainder of the week and a 72-hour ban on motorcycles was declared.
Local media have reported a total of two dead, although the circumstances remain unclear.
The governor of Sucre state, Luis Acuña, has indicated that the deaths “were not related to the lootings”, attributing them to gang violence.
Acuña claimed that the riots were instigated by right-wing groups in order to delegitimize the Maduro government’s local food distribution committees, known as CLAPs.
“No one should have any doubt that what happened in Sucre was planned and is an attack against the CLAPs,” he stated.
The claim was echoed by senior government spokespersons, including Venezuelan Socialist Party (PSUV) Vice-President Diosdado Cabello, who accused right-wing political parties of organizing the lootings.
While anti-government agitators have been active in food queues across the country, Venezuela’s rising unrest reflects the country’s deepening economic crisis triggered by the collapse of global crude prices, the source 96 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings.
Amid shrinking international reserves, the government has been forced to cut imports, leading to acute scarcities in essential goods, including bread, cornflour, as well as crucial medicines.
During the early months of this year, Venezuelans relied on large Christmas bonuses to cushion themselves from spiraling inflation, but since April, their purchasing power has crumbled, spawning mounting unrest.
While the Maduro government has tried to alleviate the impact of the crisis with the CLAPs and other state distribution networks, the measures have fallen short in covering the Venezuelan population’s total demand.
Tuesday’s disturbances in Cumana coincided with fresh looting in Los Troncales de Boyaca, in Anzoategui state, leading to the arrest of 8 people.
Anzoategui Governor Nelson Moreno, for his part, accused National Assembly President Ramos Allup of provoking the incident, pledging that he would take the opposition leader to court for “creating hate in the population”.
Also on Tuesday, a 17 year-old youth was killed during an altercation with police in Merida state that saw protesters hurl rocks at the mayor’s office and attempt to burn down the local PSUV headquarters over a food distribution dispute.
Jean Paul Omaña, 17, was shot in the head and died hours later.
The public prosecutor’s office announced that it has assigned two attorneys to investigate the case.
In recent weeks, scores of state security personnel have been indicted for their alleged role in protest deaths with two police officers arrested just last week alone.