Second North Korea: Venezuela’s Military Controls Food Supply While Nation Starves

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gestures as a parrot, wearing Chavez's traditional red beret, sits on his shoulder during the march in support him in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Oct 13, 2002. A cuban flag waves behind.A defiant Chavez rejected demands that he resign or call early elections as he rallied thousands celebrating his dramatic return to power after a coup six months ago.(AP Photo/Fernando LLano)

AP

When hunger drew tens of thousands of Venezuelans to the streets in protest last summer, President Nicolas Maduro turned to the military to manage the country’s diminished food supply, putting generals in charge of everything from butter to rice.

But instead of fighting hunger, the military is making money from it, an Associated Press investigation shows. That’s what grocer Jose Campos found when he ran out of pantry staples this year. In the middle of the night, he would travel to an illegal market run by the military to buy pallets of corn flour – at 100 times the government-set price.

“The military would be watching over whole bags of money,” Campos said. “They always had what I needed.”

With much of the country on the verge of starvation and billions of dollars at stake, food trafficking has become one of the biggest businesses in Venezuela, the AP found. And from generals to foot soldiers, the military is at the heart of the graft, according to documents and interviews with more than 60 officials, business owners and workers, including five former generals.

As a result, food is not reaching those who most need it.

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