This isn't the first instance of this in a collapsing country (much of the food aid sent to Third World countries never reaches its intended recipients), and won't be the last, but it is an interesting development as we watch Venezuela collapse. NPR reports:
In Venezuela, food has become so scarce it's now being sold on the black market. One person tells the Associated Press, "it's a better business than drugs."
And the food traffickers are the very people sworn to protect Venezuela: The nation's military.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gave the military complete control of the food supply last summer, after people began protesting in the streets over food rationing. Shortages had become so bad that people were even ransacking groceries – though many were largely empty.
These days, hunger remains widespread. But if you venture into the black markets, you'll find foods that aren't available in the state-run supermarkets, "where people would prefer to shop because it's a lot cheaper," says Joshua Goodman, the AP's news director for the Andes. He was part of the AP team that investigated the food trafficking situation.
"These goods are only getting into the country because the military is importing them," Goodman tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "And when you see the food sold at these makeshift markets, there's usually military people standing by with weapons, watching over it all, if not actually selling the food directly."
And the military isn't just running these black markets – it's getting rich off them, Goodman says.