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Looting Turns Deadly In Venezuela Amid Severe Food Shortages

Members of national guard patrol a supermarket in Caracas, on February 3, 2015. President Nicolas Maduro, whose country faces severe economic crisis and shortages, ordered a Venezuelan chain be taken over Tuesday and its proprietors detained for inciting "a food war against the people."AFP   PHOTO/JUAN BARRETO        (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)

(CARACAS)   A man was killed and dozens were arrested Friday as a mob looted a supermarket and other shops in an industrial Venezuelan city, Bolivar state authorities said.

In announcing the looting, Gov. Francisco Rangel pushed back against opponents of Venezuela’s socialist government who attributed the unrest to widespread scarcities of basic goods across the oil-rich nation.

He said more than two dozen people were arrested in connection with the looting in the southeastern city of

Ciudad Guyana and added that there was no excuse for the behavior. “No one is starving,” he said.

Rangel also suggested to the television station Globovision that the looting might have been driven by people with “political motives.” Tensions are running high in Venezuela as the country gears up for December legislative elections.

Local newspaper Correo del Caroni said the commotion, which centered on four stroes, caused merchants to temporarily shutter nearby businesses in fear they might be attacked, too.

 Venezuela has been grappling with worsening shortages of basic goods like cooking oil and flour. The administration has adopted a variety of measures to address the situation and discourage hoarding, including fingerprinting shoppers who buy food at subsidized prices at supermarkets. Officials also limit the days that people can buy certain products.

Few items are produced locally, and rigid currency controls and a scarcity of U.S. dollars have made it increasingly difficult for Venezuelans to find imported products. Price controls don’t help either, with producers complaining that some goods are priced too low to make a profit and justify production.

The administration blames the shortages both on companies speculating with an eye toward future profits and on black market vendors who buy groceries at subsidized prices and illegally resell them for several times the amount.

The looting came a day after Venezuela’s largest food distributor, Polar, protested a government seizure of one of its warehouses in Caracas and warned that any takeovers could exacerbate supply problems.

The opposition immediately seized on the looting incident as a demonstration of how bad things have gotten under the current administration.

Henrique Capriles, a former presidential candidate who lost a close race with President Nicolas Maduro in the last presidential election, said the looting shows that shortages have become dire in Venezuela.

“The farther you get from the capital, the worse the economic situation is,” he said.