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My Venezuela Nightmare: A 30 Day Hunt For Food In A Starving Land

The diary of a desperate mother trying to put on the kitchen table in Venezuela.
The diary of a desperate mother trying to put food on the kitchen table in Venezuela.

(Bloomberg) In an effort to illustrate what day-to-day like is on the ground, Bloomberg reporter Fabiola Zerpa documented her efforts to secure food for her middle-calss family and talks about the looking, the blackouts, the mob lynchings and the hospital with no supplies, as Venezueal collapses into disarray on a scale unseen in the Western Hemisphere in decades.

The following is an excerpt of the selection of entries from her month-long chronicle. Click here for the English version or the versión en Español.

Zerpa drives past a small barrio on her way to a store, having visited several supermarkets and kiosks in search of shortage products on a Thursday afternoon.
Zerpa drives past a small barrio on her way to a store, having visited several supermarkets and kiosks in search of shortage products on a Thursday afternoon.

June 9

Thursday. My one chance in the week to buy staples—cooking oil, rice, laundry detergent—at state-set prices. All Venezuelan adults are assigned days of the week to shop for regulated goods based on the numbers on our national ID cards. Continue reading…

Zerpa chats with a fellow shopper about two cartons of milk they find sitting on a shelf. They are the only ones left and appear to be spoiled, but the other woman says she will take one anyway, just in case they’re wrong.
Zerpa chats with a fellow shopper about two cartons of milk they find sitting on a shelf. They are the only ones left and appear to be spoiled, but the other woman says she will take one anyway, just in case they’re wrong.

June 14

I’m in search of bread again. Because it’s becoming harder and harder to buy fresh bread—as Venezuelans have traditionally done—I decide to look for the packaged kind. At noon, I head to a nearby grocery store. There’s no line outside. Hmm. Continue reading…

Store shelves that are well-stocked, like those in this bakery near Zerpa’s house, are typically full of non-essential items set at sky-high prices.
Store shelves that are well-stocked, like those in this bakery near Zerpa’s house, are typically full of non-essential items set at sky-high prices.

June 15

On my way to work, I drive by the local supermarket to see if the line is manageable enough to sneak in and look around. It’s not. What’s unusual on this morning, though, is that the municipal police officers who normally keep order on the line order aren’t there. Continue reading…

Harina P.A.N., the corn flour Venezuelans use to make arepas, on Zerpa’s kitchen table.
Harina P.A.N., the corn flour Venezuelans use to make arepas, on Zerpa’s kitchen table.

June 17

Big score. Isaac, through the friend of a friend he works with at an ad-production company, got his hands on 5 kilos of corn flour. This is huge. Flour is the main ingredient in arepas, the flat, round corn bread that’s the most important staple in the Venezuelan diet. Continue reading…

At a supermarket near her neighborhood, the line is so long Zerpa doesn’t bother waiting.
At a supermarket near her neighborhood, the line is so long Zerpa doesn’t bother waiting.

June 25

I head out early to a farmers’ market near my house. Before dawn each Saturday, the farmers truck in their produce from the surrounding mountains. Everything’s sold at free-market prices. This is, technically speaking, illegal but essentially goes unenforced nowadays. Shopping here, at these prices, is a luxury I know that millions of Venezuelans can’t afford. Continue reading…

At another supermarket, Zerpa inspects the special station it has for shortage products sold at high prices, like tuna fish.
At another supermarket, Zerpa inspects the special station it has for shortage products sold at high prices, like tuna fish.

July 1

It’s 7 p.m. I need to load my kids in the car and swing by the local bakery. I’m dreading it, to be honest. These streets are especially dangerous after dark, something I was acutely reminded of the day before when a woman was kidnapped just a few feet from the bakery. Continue reading…

Zerpa exits a store with her purchases.
Zerpa exits a store with her purchases.

July 7

Thursday. My day of the week to buy staples. I head over to the local supermarket just after 10 a.m. Sixty people or so are waiting outside. They’ve come from all over the city, especially the poorer neighborhoods where food is scarcest, to stand in line.  Continue reading…