Reports of Attacks Against Food Distribution Trucks Increase in Venezuela

Local community councils and media have reported networks of re-sellers and gangs have orchestrated more than a dozen attacks and robberies in the last 90 days against food distribution trucks.

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A state operated food distribution truck in Catia, Caracas. (Bloomberg)
A state operated food distribution truck in Catia, Caracas. (Bloomberg)
By Jeanette Charles
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Venezuelan media outlet Últimas Noticias reported Thursday that in the last three months there have been 18 robberies along the country’s Central Regional Highway, negatively affecting national food distribution. The recent surge in attacks against producers and their distributors are allegedly carried out by bachaqueros, buyers and re-sellers of food as well as other products, in addition to organized gangs.

The Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) post in Tazón, Caracas officially documented the 18 robberies and five unsuccessful attempts against trucks carrying vegetables and fruits along the Central Regional Highway. In 2015, four trucks were the victims of robberies between September and December representing a significant spike in attacks.

Community Council “The Breeze” from Miranda State researched bachaqueo networks in their own sector, Rebirth. Their study found that, “they [bachaqueros] have two trucks where they stock the food. They sell this food to informal workers and these [workers] re-sell the goods to the people of Ocumare del Tuy.”

Arelis Prado, representative of the Collective “Awakening 2021” from Minas de Baruta has worked with national producers from Tachira State to deliver and distribute vegetables in their community. However, constant attacks along roads have caused delays he expressed.

“The first time the truck carried 150 bags of five kilos of different vegetables and fruits. They tried to rob the truck when it passed through Aragua State. They [the producers] decided to return and come two days later,” he explained.

Not only have local networks been targeted but also government initiatives such as the Sardine Caravan coming out of Sucre state.

Enio Aguilera, an owner of a truck that was wrecked during an attack, reported that seven vehicles were damaged on their way to the Socialist Fish Fair with the Sardine Caravan. “It was direct sabotage because we could not transport the fish to other parts of the country in the following days,” he explained.

Likewise, reports of damaged trucks and slashed tires but untouched and unstolen food have arisen indicating that intimidation and not only re-selling are among the reasons behind attacks.  

“The cruelty they show toward Sucre state is because we are the state with the greatest fish production and we are solving part of the food crisis due to the economic war,” said Aguilera.

Both of these former cases have been reported to the Socialist Fishing and Agricultural Institute (Insopesca) which has assumed part of the repair costs and is currently carrying out an investigation regarding the incidents.

Last month, 400 people were arrested in Cumaná, Sucre for ransacking local stores out of frustrations with the current economic situation and inaccessibility of certain goods. Since then, the government has signed agreements with Trinidad and Tobago to provide food and other basic goods to locations across the country, including the Caribbean coastal state.

The national government continues to search for answers to resolve the ongoing issues facing the country’s producers and distribution networks.

Vice president Aristóbulo Istúriz said earlier this year that, “[farmers] cannot produce in the countryside if there is insecurity. We will give special attention to the countryside in regard to all the work we are doing. This is a security issue that the State must resolve.”

The Venezuelan government has implemented several strategies to address the country’s access to food. Recent commercial agreements with neighboring countries along with local food distribution networks, known as CLAPs, have formed.

This week, President Nicolás Maduro also confirmed the creation of the Great Sovereign and Secure Supply Mission, a national program targeted at promoting agricultural, industrial, and pharmaceutical production. 

The government is also trying to crack down on bachaqueo networks and corruption. Last week, 21 people were arrested in Mérida State, along the border with Colombia, for allegedly participating in a bachaqueo network confirmed Venezuelan Secretary General Gerardo Molina.