March 28, 2018

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: In Venezuela, hungry child gangs use machetes to fight for ‘quality’ garbage.

“Our kids are finding ways to survive because neither in their homes nor in their communities is there enough food,” explains social worker Roberto Patino, who has established 29 public diners all over the country to feed hungry children.

From Monday to Friday, the diners provide food for 1,000 kids every week. Patino said even so, he believes he isn’t coming close to feeding all the children who need the help, given the overwhelming number he sees on the streets. Experts estimate that in Caracas alone, there are in hundreds, if not thousands of street children and young adults.

Patino bemoans that there are not enough resources to help these kids get their lives back on track let alone feed them properly. For now, many have turned to trash bags as a source of nutrition.

And it’s not hunger alone sending children onto the streets. Domestic violence is also often cited. “I left because I got beaten badly,” Caramelo says about her mother, a drug addict.

Caramelo has two aspirations now — she wants to become a criminal justice advocate or to open a candy shop she would name Caramelo’s.

A year ago, she had a miscarriage. Patricio was the father. The baby died, she said, as a consequence of a clash with a rival gang. “A girl from another gang punched me hard in my belly. The next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital,” Caramelo recalled.

Despite that, she returned to the gang, she said, to take care of her “street kids.”

The gang must protect its “zone” from rival gangs searching for food — but that works both ways. Sometimes the Chacao gang ventures into the more affluent neighborhoods of Caracas to look through what they call “quality” garbage bags.

That’s probably nothing compared with what those kids will have to face in the near future.

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