Maduro rewards loyal Venezuelan soldiers with toilet paper, opposition says

by WorldTribune Staff, July 26, 2017

Venezuela’s army may march on its stomach, but it can’t roll without toilet paper.

Photographs have emerged of Venezuelan military brass presenting soldiers with toilet paper in what appears to be socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s way of rewarding them for their loyalty, opposition leader Henrique Capriles tweeted on July 23.

Soldiers were handed packages that included toilet paper, toothpaste, and sanitary wipes. / Twitter

“Is handing our soldiers personal hygiene products supposed to be a Maduro and [Defense Minister Vladimir] Padrino victory, that they then show off? They do not respect the Armed Forces!” Capriles tweeted.

Soldiers were shown in the photographs shaking hands with a superior, who handed them a package that included toilet paper, toothpaste, and sanitary wipes.

Venezuela’s economic collapse has led to chronic shortages of sanitary products such as toilet paper and toothpaste, as well as other basic resources such as food, medicine, and electricity.

Capriles, who ran against Maduro in 2014 and has since been banned by the socialist leader from running in elections for 15 years on unsubstantiated charges of drug trafficking, said the military was likely rewarding the soldiers for a “great job” in the past few days as they continue to use water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas to contain mass protests against Maduro’s government.

A report by The Associated Press in January found that the Venezuelan military had seized full control of all food coming in and out of the country and had been re-selling stolen products at huge markups.

The AP report also found authorities regularly demanded bribes from food importers and  truck drivers, thus hiking the prices of food products for ordinary citizens.

Opposition leaders have also alleged that security forces regularly steal possessions from protesters and journalists, such as motorcycles, cameras, and even shoes. Responding to the allegations, Padrino warned armed forces against bad behavior, saying he did not want to see “one more national guardsman committing an atrocity on the street.”

Inflation in Venezuela is expected to rise to 1,500 percent by the end of the year. The Venezuelan Bolivar has lost 99.9 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar since 2010.

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