Maracaibo Is Helpless Against Looters

These are the stories of the people hit hardest by looting in Venezuela’s second city: small business owners who have no chance of surviving an event like that, helpless against the anarchy unleashed in Zulia due to the national blackout.


Lisbeth clings to prayer and faith amidst the looting of La Curva Molina public market in Maracaibo that started last Monday, March 11th. The looters are threatening her modest deli store: the only thing she and her husband have to sustain their two kids. “God of mercy, almighty, help us overcome this and protect us with your blood,” she writes on one of her WhatsApp statuses. “Yesterday, the police did nothing and today they’re in the streets and can’t control the looters. Lord protect us.”

Others don’t have such religious methods. José, a shop owner at La Limpia Ave., says that he put on a bulletproof vest and took a gun for the first time this Tuesday, and took all of his merchandise home. “The owners of the few businesses that haven’t been looted look like mercenaries: with shotguns and all. I felt like Rambo and I was ready to kill anyone,” he says. “I cleared everything from the shop, but they can still damage the fridges, the most expensive equipment.”

This Wednesday, Venezuelan business chamber Fedecámaras confirmed over 350 looted stores, while governor Omar Prieto, from PSUV, claimed that over 500 people had been detained due to “vandalism”. He blames the unrest on the poor security of affected businesses. According to him, they allowed the sacking.

The public forces do little or nothing: they arrive late to the scene or are nowhere to be seen, even though police helicopters were flying over the city on Sunday, March 10th. Meanwhile, the streets of Maracaibo look apocalyptic. There’s destruction and filth everywhere, and the few open stores report queues of dozens of people, just like in a war.