SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA —
A Venezuelan woman died Monday after being shot in the face when looters raided state food warehouses in the latest unrest in the crisis-hit OPEC nation, her family said.
Relatives of hotel worker Jenny Ortiz, 42, said she died in the hospital after being shot during the melee late Sunday in San Cristobal, a town near the border of Colombia, where looting and anti-government protests have been occurring in recent months.
Family including her mother-in-law Carmen Rosa, 58, who said she saw the incident, alleged that a policeman shot Ortiz. Authorities did not comment on that accusation, though local police said armed criminals had fired on police and an investigation was underway.
"The warehouses were supposedly full of food and the people need food," Rosa told Reuters at the morgue where her daughter-in-law's corpse was taken, saying about 500 local residents had descended on the premises.
When security forces chased some of the crowd after they broke in, "they jumped down a bank to protect themselves, and a policeman who was pursuing them shot her. They shot her in the face," she added.
Lootings on the rise
Venezuela has seen a rise in looting, lynchings and violent protests this year during a deepening economic crisis. There are shortages of food and other basics across the nation of 30 million people, and inflation is the highest in the world.
While the opposition coalition blames socialist President Nicolas Maduro and is seeking a referendum to recall him, the government says political foes are fanning the crisis with an "economic war" and seeking a coup against him.
Vielma Mora, a ruling Socialist Party member who governs the state including San Cristobal, confirmed the woman's death and said it happened after several days of looting.
"These are plans orchestrated by the right wing," he said. "We hope to capture the person responsible."
The fall in oil prices has heaped pain on Venezuela, which depends on crude for about 95 percent of export revenues.
Venezuelans' patience is wearing thin as they skip meals, survive off yucca or mangoes, and grapple with supermarkets unable to provide food for lines that can stretch into the thousands.
There is no official data, but non-governmental group Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict reported 107 episodes of looting or attempted looting in the first quarter.
Videos of crowds breaking into shops, swarming onto trucks or fighting over products frequently make the rounds on social media, though footage is often hard to confirm.