The Sack of Maracaibo

Venezuela’s second city spent the first 50 hours of blackout trying to survive under the intense heat. But once food and water began to run out, the looting started. All kinds of businesses are being destroyed by a mob made of desperate people and common thugs.

Photo: Punto de Corte, retrieved.

Even though it had been 50 hours since the blackout started, Maracaibo was calm on the morning of Sunday, March 10th. People were talking, playing dominoes or getting together to cook all the meat they had so it wouldn’t rot, even amid the uncertainty and the rumors that 80% of the country was in the dark.

Some grocery stores were giving away products such as plantain, vegetables or milk before they spoilt; others that had debit and credit card readers had huge lines; while others were already starting to sell anything in cash dollars: from flour and rice, to ice.

That calm ended late on Sunday afternoon with the first reports of looting. The first stores targeted by the vandals were bakeries and small supermarkets; after that, they charged against the ice factories like Hielos El Toro, on Los Haticos Ave., looted after it started to sell bags of ice for up to $10. “The only thing we want is a small piece of ice to store my mom’s insulin, that’s all,” one of the protesters said.

On Monday morning, downtown Maracaibo became a battlefield until 3:00 p.m., where demonstrators faced security forces.

On Monday morning, downtown Maracaibo became a battlefield until 3:00 p.m., where demonstrators faced security forces; the former with stones and bottles, the latter with pellets and tear gas. However, nobody was looting food there: people were taking toys and baby cradles.

Close to noon, Maracaibo mayor Willy Casanova told Radio Fe y Alegría that 80 people involved in vandalism had been arrested in the Maracaibo and San Francisco municipalities.

But the cherry on top of that day of intense looting was the Nasa and Centro 99 supermarkets, two of the largest in Zulia’s capital, which people stripped completely clean, even in front of the National Police. Men, women and children, and even the elderly, loaded up with flour, pasta, soda or detergent. A person looting the Nasa supermarket, carrying a few full bags, told me: “The police is there but I told them, straight up: we’re all hungry, even you.”