The Venezuelan military is selling food staples at up to 100 times the government-mandated costs in illegal marketplaces, according to an investigation by the Associated Press published Sunday. The black markets are carried out at all levels of the military from foot soldiers on up to generals. The higher food prices, exacerbated already by a currency crisis, have created a trafficking scheme that is more lucrative than drugs that keeps the provisions out of the hands of the country’s most needy populations.
“The military would be watching over whole bags of money,” Jose Campos, a grocer who was forced to make late night trips to the markets after his food supplies ran out, told the AP. “They always had what I needed.”
The investigation included reviews of documents and interviews with more than 60 officials, workers and company owners. Five former generals were consulted, as well. The results painted a picture of corruption from the port of entry for imported goods to the markets where Venezuelans buy their meals. Government officials have frequently refused to process incoming food unless they were paid kickbacks. Many appeared willing to let food sit and spoil. As many as 90 percent of Venezuelans have said they can’t pay for food.