The Daily Telegraph

Chavez pushes Venezuela into food war
The Daily Telegraph

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has pushed his country into a perilous food war that has seen prices rocket amid shortages and scandal over shipments left rotting at the docks. Several thousands tons of rotting meat was among 80,000 tons left to go bad at the Puerto Cabello seaport. One local worker said that the stench at the docks indicated the meat had been festering for weeks. He said: « It stank like 100 dead dogs. »

The scandal emerged just weeks after Mr Chavez launched an « economic war on the bourgeoisie owners » of supermarkets, mills, rice plants and food distribution companies. The « battle for food » coincided with a botched devaluation in January that pushed up the cost of imports.

The result has been an economic catastrophe in the only Latin American economy in recession. Inflation leapt to 21 per cent in May as food prices rose 41 per cent over the level of a year ago. Soldiers have been deployed to raid private homes for food stores. Long lines regularly form on streets for basic commodities.

The former paratrooper, who is an avowed fan of Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean dictator, and Fidel Castro, Cuba’s Communist tyrant, boasted that he has launched a new era of socialist supremacy. He said: « Socialism is necessarily better than capitalism across the board and, that’s what we’re proving. »

The shortages have a sharp drop in Mr Chavez’s popularity ratings to 45 per cent a rare poll in March, from more than 70 per cent three years ago.