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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