Already wracked by runaway inflation and shortages of everything from beer to diapers, toilet paper to batteries, Venezuela's misery has been compounded by its own military, an Associated Press investigation reveals. After Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gave the military authority to manage the South American nation's food supply, soldiers began trafficking the food to collect corrupt profits while their compatriots face starvation.
"Lately, food is a better business than drugs," explains retired Venezuelan Gen. Cliver Alcala. "The military is in charge of food management now, and they're not going to just take that on without getting their cut." The money-making scheme involves soldiers of every rank, AP found, with troops selling basics like corn flour at late-night black markets with massive mark-ups over the socialist government's price controls.
Shopkeepers desperate to put something on their shelves have played along as state interference with food imports keeps much-needed supplies waiting in boats offshore for weeks on end. And the decision to place the military in control of the food assured Maduro's increasingly hated government a degree of security: Where once a military-assisted coup may have been brewing, troops are now satisfied their families will be fed even as Venezuela more broadly continues to suffer.