Biweekly, Aleyair Romero queues early in front of the municipal slaughterhouse of San Cristóbal, in the Andes of Venezuela, to fill a thermos with beef blood, the only protein delivered free of charge.
"I have, since the quarantine began, looking for blood because I am unemployed at work", said Romero, 20, who worked in a mechanical workshop until March 17, when the national isolation implanted by the Nicolás Maduro regime began to stop the coronavirus.
Romero said that due to the country's economic crisis and delays in the arrival of CLAP boxes or bags, a government program that sells food at subsidized prices, you have to figure out how to get food.
"One has to find food whatever", he added holding a red thermos that overflowed with blood to the doors of the slaughterhouse.
Although cow's blood is used to make a traditional soup in the Venezuelan Andes and neighboring Colombia, the slaughterhouse says more people are looking for it. However, few are happy about that food instead of meat, which costs a few four or five dollars a kilo in San Cristóbal, approximately twice a monthly minimum wage.
The dependence on the blood of cattle is a sign of the problems to feed in the South American nation, whose economy has been in recession for six years and three in hyperinflation.
While the impact of the coronavirus itself still seems modest, Venezuelans increasingly suffer with a paralyzed economy.
The delay in the distribution of boxes and bags affects the regions more because the office leans towards the main cities, including Caracas, according to the non-governmental group Citizenship in Action, which studies the distribution and content of CLAPs.
For years, the Maduro regime has given the capital priority access to services that include water and electricity.
In Caracas, 26.5% of families received CLAP boxes in April, compared to just 4% of families in areas like the Plains region like Apure and Guárico, according to data from Ciudadanía en Acción.
People "are not going to be killed by the virus, but hunger", said Edison Arciniegas, director of the group.
Receiving a plate of chicken soup and a ham and cheese sandwich, some moms take away some of the ham and cheese to give to their children for breakfast the next day.Some moms said in Carapita, a slum in western Caracas.
The United Nations has rated Venezuela as the fourth largest food crisis in the world in 2019, with 9.3 million Venezuelans, hungry or insufficient food intake. Some 5 million people have emigrated from the OPEC country due to the crisis.
Maduro's government attributes the economic problems to US sanctions, aimed at pressuring his departure from power, and says international aid agencies exaggerate the volume of the Venezuelan immigration wave. Opponents and economists say that the crisis obeys the state model of controls.
The Venezuelan Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the Reuters Agency, to clarify these issues.
The figures of the regime show that Venezuela has 440 cases of coronavirus and 10 deaths.
In a dining room of the non-governmental organization Alimentos la Solidaridad they describe a dramatic increase in the number of people served by the quarantine and delays in delivering food boxes, which in many cases come every six to seven weeks instead of every month as promised at the beginning of the program.
On the second floor of a house, five volunteers served lunch every day for about 80 children from Carapita, but since the quarantine they serve not only those children, but 350 other people from the neighborhood. Children do not go to the dining room because of the virus, but their mothers search for food and take it home.
Many say that state food boxes are slow to arrive or do not have enough products.
The program began by delivering 19 products such as rice, pasta, grains, oil, milk powder, mayonnaise, and sometimes a few cans of tuna. Currently it delivers about eight products or less, without protein, even milk almost disappeared. The box costs 20,000 bolivars (about 0.11 cents), but in other areas of the country it can rise to about 50,000 (0.28 cents), according to witnesses. Reuters.
The CLAP box “is not enough for us to bear this”said Ysimar Pernalete, 38, the mother of two girls of nine and two in Carapita.
"How do you say to a child, I do not have to give you? You give him a single rice, then they cry ”he added.
Critics call the food distribution system a social control mechanism that allows the government to limit dissent and protest.
The blood soup known in San Cristóbal as "pigeon" is generally made with onion and rice, but it has rarely been a mainstay of the diet in a region traditionally known for eating meat.
In the municipal slaughterhouse of San Cristóbal, between 30 and 40 people arrive every day, each carrying their own container, to request cattle bloodAccording to an employee, who added that in the past and without a crisis, that blood was thrown away.
"We are starving"said Baudilio Chacón, 46, a construction worker who became unemployed in quarantine while waiting to collect blood at the slaughterhouse. "We are four brothers and a 10 year old boy, we are all fed with blood".
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