At least 400 people were arrested in Venezuela this week, authorities said on Wednesday, as the South American nation grapples with widespread looting and riots amid a crippling economic crisis and the world’s highest rate of inflation.
Looters swarmed shops in the coastal town of Cumana on Tuesday to seize food and other supplies, with security forces nearly powerless to stop them, Reuters reported. Several unconfirmed deaths were also reported during the violence, but regional governor Luis Acuna insisted that these were unrelated to the looting or arrests.
Protests and riots — with people chanting “We want food!” — have spread across Venezuela in recent weeks due to severe shortages caused by the recession, Reuters says. Many blame Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro‘s socialist economic policies for the country’s dire situation, with opposition parties calling for a referendum to remove him from office this year.
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