Rage, pain, and hunger in Venezuela
How a once-proud country descended into chaos
Venezuela's economic devastation has erupted into all-out chaos. Once one of Latin America's wealthiest countries, the oil-rich nation is now enduring one of the world's deepest recessions. People are starving, hospitals have run out of supplies, and the capital is locked in a near-constant violent clash between protesters and riot police, as the regime of President Nicolas Maduro and opposition groups wrestle for political control.
Members of the Bolivarian National Guard block the passage to a demonstration against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 26, 2017. | (EPA/CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ)
It wasn't always like this. In 2006, though the country had suffered decades of widespread poverty, hunger, and crime, morale was relatively high. Beloved former President Hugo Chavez, who had just won a sweeping re-election and was at the height of his power, lavished social programs on the people to buoy his popularity against the underlying current of crisis.
But as the economy continued to disintegrate, Chavez tightened his rein, twisting his socialist policies into a nightmarish dictatorship that has continued under his hand-picked successor Maduro, who is now doing whatever he can to cling to power. With resources at an all-time low, and desperation high, Venezuela is inching unnervingly close to a civil war.
These unsettling photos offer a glimpse of the last decade of simmering anguish and Venezuela's descent into self-inflicted chaos.
November 2006 | A Caracas house is decorated with an image of Che Guevara and Hugo Chavez. The text reads: "Fatherland or Death." Chavez wins re-election by the widest margin since 1947. | (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
May 27, 2007 | A worker at Venezuela's oldest private television station, RCTV, cries after the channel is forced off the air over its criticism of the Chavez government. RCTV was the sole opposition-aligned TV station with nationwide reach. Chavez accused the station of "poisoning" Venezuelans with programming that promoted capitalism, among other allegations. | (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
November 2008 | Suspects are searched by police during a raid in a Caracas slum. By this time, Venezuela has one of the world's highest murder rates, with poor neighborhoods bearing the brunt of spiking crime waves and dozens of weekly killings. | (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
May 2011 | A 3-year-old child stands at the door of her shack in a Caracas slum. More than 3.1 million Venezuelans live in inadequate housing in 2011. | (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
March 6, 2013 | Chavez's coffin is driven through the Caracas streets, filled with mourners. He died of cancer one month after winning another presidential term. | (REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez)
Feb. 24, 2014 | Anti-government demonstrators in Caracas protest new President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's hand-picked successor. The graffiti reads: "Maduro we are going for you." | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
Jan. 9, 2015 | Hundreds of people line up outside a state-run grocery store in Caracas, as Venezuela's food shortages worsen. The best chance at buying food is to line up in the middle of the night, but it can be a dangerous endeavor. In some states, food lines are manned by armed soldiers dressed in riot gear. In other states, overnight lines have been banned due to violence. Often, smugglers swarm stores when goods arrive. | (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
Aug. 25, 2015 | A child plays with belongings left behind by his relatives in San Antonio, Venezuela. Some Venezuelans begin seeking food or fleeing government abuse by crossing the border into Colombia. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
June 9, 2016 | A demonstrator throws a stone at riot police officers during a protest organized by university students against Venezuela's government. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
June 10, 2016 | A woman carrying a child and packages of pasta tries to escape a food riot — a common occurrence — outside a supermarket in Caracas. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
Sept. 1, 2016 | Police officers detain a protester in Caracas during a rally to demand a referendum to remove President Maduro. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
April 6, 2017 | Demonstrators run from tear gas during an opposition rally in Caracas. Both government and opposition forces have taken to using tear gas during protests. Police sometimes fire water cannons to disperse the crowds; some protesters hurl Molotov cocktails and jars of fecal matter. | (REUTERS/Christian Veron)
April 19, 2017 | Tens of thousands of Venezuelans participate in a large-scale protest, called the "mother of all marches" by organizers, in Caracas. At least 22 people die. | (REUTERS/Christian Veron)
May 9, 2017 | A woman and a girl run away as riot security forces and demonstrators clash in Tariba, Venezuela. | (REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez)
May 13, 2017 | Demonstrators stand next to a burning bus near an anti-government protest in Caracas. | (REUTERS/Christian Veron)