Venezuelans turn to looting as food shortage worsens

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (NBC) - Police surrounded a supermarket in Caracas, Venezuela Saturday to keep hundreds of neighborhood residents from looting the store.

People had waited in line since early morning outside the Caracas market, only to be told in mid-afternoon that the store had run out of food.

Venezuela is in crisis, with food shortages sparking protests in what was once South America’s richest country.

A fall in oil prices combined with other economic problems has sparked desperation in Venezuela.

A recent poll showed nearly half of residents say they can no longer afford to eat three meals a day.

Speaking at a news conference, Jesus Torrealba, representing a coalition of opposition parties, said people were getting angry at the government, which seems unable to deliver food through a government program to every citizen.

The government blames the political opposition, accusing it of waging an “economic war” to stir unrest and oust President Nicolas Maduro from power.