• Food handouts prompt row in shortage-hit Venezuela


    CARACAS: Venezuelans facing severe food shortages might have been expected to welcome heavily subsidized bags of rice, milk and other staples — but the controversy didn’t take long to set in. The bags, distributed to poor families every three weeks, represent President Nicolas Maduro’s latest plan to combat the increasingly desperate economic crisis that has taken hold of oil giant Venezuela as crude prices have collapsed over the past two years. But the program has already drawn a hail of criticism. The bags are too skimpy, too infrequent and reserved mainly for the leftist president’s supporters, critics say. Maduro launched the program to combat the black-market resale of subsidized food and crippling shortages, which he says are being artificially created by a business elite bent on destroying Venezuela’s socialist economic model and forcing him from power. Under the new distribution plan, the government hands out food through so-called Supply and Production Committees headed by community leaders. The acronym in Spanish is CLAP. But there hasn’t been much applause.



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