Photo: Reuters, retrieved

When there was nothing left, the mob wanted to burn the house down.

They had already taken the TVs, the beds, clothes, lightbulbs, personal documents, ripped off the faucets and toilets and even the doors and their frames. They had the molotov cocktails ready and were lighting them on when the neighbors talked them out of it.

Daniel tells me that “it wasn’t out of hunger. Hungry people don’t do that.”

Some witnesses say there were 500 looters, Correo del Caroní says there were 200. What we do know is that they came from nearby houses. At Core 8, a slum at the east of Ciudad Guayana, angry mobs took the streets at 6:00 p.m. They charged at the stores with molotovs and rocks, upset at the shopkeepers’ alleged refusal to accept low denomination bills and the banknote hoarding the official propaganda insists on.

Daniel, owner of a looted apparel store, tells me that’s a lie. They didn’t have a point of sale, but had been using their personal bank accounts to offer transfers from as many banks as possible.

“We always offered to make it easier, we wanted to help the community and ourselves. You know how things are with cash.”

At first, soldiers were at Daniel’s store doing their best to contain the mob while his family moved valuables from their home, in the back to the shop, to a neighbor’s house. They took the fridge, the stove and one air conditioner.

The next day, no stores in Core 8 opened. Most owners hid away the merchandise, and opened the santamarías so people could see there was nothing to loot.

But the guards retreated, overwhelmed by the rabble. Daniel armed himself with a knife and threatened to attack anyone who approached his house. That (and the ongoing looting) bought them time to escape through the roof.

“They took everything they could, and destroyed what they couldn’t.”

Funny (and by that I mean “sick”) enough, they took all of the cash except for the lower denomination bills they were allegedly pissed about. When they noticed that the neighbor helped them escape and hide their stuff, they threatened to kill her.

“I don’t have anything to do with the looting, I didn’t see anything, I don’t know anything,” said a witness from across the street.

There were eight stores raided that day. The one in front of Daniel’s suffered the same fate (including the blitz to the attached home), but a nearby liquor store was spared when the owner scared the mob off with a gun.

The next day, no stores in Core 8 opened. Most owners hid away the merchandise, and opened the santamarías so people could see there was nothing to loot. Daniel’s family is too scared to return. For now, they’re staying with relatives, out of work and homeless.

The looting actually started the day before. On Wednesday there was another, and they show no sign of slowing down. You can even see people organizing the raids on Facebook, just like it was in Ciudad Bolívar a year ago.

This is just starting.

Some of the names and specific elements of this story were changed to protect our sources.

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