A Hunger Riot in La Vega

A truck transporting chicken was looted, the driver was attacked, two police officers were injured, the police took away several wounded and neighbors lived a frightening afternoon. All shops and stores closed during the fighting.

Read the original at Cronica.Uno.

Translated by Javier Liendo.

A truck loaded with chicken arrived at La Vega’s casco colonial at around 9:00 a.m. on Friday. People were already in line to buy scarce, price controlled food items. The rumor that the merchandise was going to be rerouted to the CLAPs spread through the queue and the crowd grew angry. A skirmish ensued and someone started yelling “saqueo” – looting. A mob intercepted the truck, looted the products and attacked the driver.

Violence also erupted at a bakery called Ferman Pan, in San Miguel, and in a butcher shop along the boulevard. According to neighbours, two trucks loaded with food products arrived at the area and were unloaded in the bakery.

The delivery was only enough for a few of the people in line; the rest angrily attempted to break into the shop, which had already closed its doors. They complained that the owners had kept the rest of the merchandise to resell somewhere else.

According to witness accounts, the police arrived and used tear gas to disperse the mob that kept trying to break into the shop.

“It was horrible, we heard explosions, people went crazy, they screamed and fought because they wanted to get into the bakery. The owner got away only because he’d already closed and then the police arrived,” a neighbor said

“We’re hungry,” the women in line yelled, in the hope that the bakery would re-open for them to buy food.

And although several police officers stood between them and the bakery, they weren’t afraid to keep pushing.

 
Then, confusion spread over La Vega’s casco central. After the chicken truck had been looted and there had been attempts at looting nearby shops, every single shop along the main avenue beside the boulevard shut down.

Violent police repression followed. The police didn’t want anyone recording or taking pictures. Even Crónica.Uno journalists were warned that they would lose their cellphones if they didn’t put them away. “Don’t let them see your phone, they’re going to take it from you, policemen don’t care,” neighbors told the journalists.

Then, confusion spread over La Vega’s casco central. After the chicken truck had been looted and there had been attempts at looting nearby shops, every single shop along the main avenue beside the boulevard shut down.

Soon traffic was chaos. Bus routes stopped their service and the rotonda of La India collapsed due to the blocked streets. People only had access through the higher roads of La Vega, from the Panamerican Highway.

Riots spread from San Miguel to Vista Hermosa and residence buildings (bloques) 1 and 2 of El Carmen. The atmosphere was still tense by noon. There were groups of people in every corner. People screamed and threw objects at the street from the buildings.

 
There were no trucks with food and shops were closed. Armed groups and policemen fought on the streets. We heard shots. We don’t know if they were pellet guns or firearms. There was confusion everywhere.

The National Guard and the National Police brought the Ballena and their armored vehicles and went up to the slums. Motorizados dressed as civilians started to circle the area in caravans and fear took over the place. People weren’t protesting for food anymore.

“There were no trucks with food and shops were closed. Armed groups and policemen fought on the streets. We heard shots. We don’t know if they were pellet guns or firearms. There was confusion everywhere. The Ballena used its water cannon on protesters while the police made their way to Bloque 1,” said one of the neighbors who asked us not to disclose his name.

That’s where a National Police officer was wounded in the neck and was taken away by other policemen. In the afternoon he was reported to be out of danger.

Neighbors reported forceful entries into homes in the area. They also reported that several people were arrested. Tensions remained past 4:00 pm this Friday. Police officers made rounds in their motorcycles, and a police helicopter flew over the area. Residents were in fear the whole day.

Public transport started to normalize somewhat in the evening, with limitations, since drivers were afraid that fighting could restart. A National Guard officer was also wounded in a leg, according to reports on social networks.

Riot-packed week

In the last few days there were protests for food in several areas of the capital. There was looting in La Urbina, Petare and El Llanito and a looting attempt in Coche; meanwhile, roads were blocked in La California and El Valle (Thursday and Friday). The people protested because price controlled products didn’t arrive to their area, and against the Local Committees of Supply and Distribution (CLAPs).

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