Wednesday 28 September 2016

Starving Venezuelans break into zoo to eat rare horse

Harriet Alexander, New York

Published 19/08/2016 | 02:30

President Nicolas Maduro. Photo: Reuters
President Nicolas Maduro. Photo: Reuters

Venezuelans suffering from hunger and shortages in their struggling country broke into Caracas zoo and pulled a black stallion from its pen, then butchered the animal for food.

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A group of people entered the state-run Caricuao Zoo under the cover of darkness and seized the horse, the only one of its kind in the zoo.

The animal was then led to a secluded area and butchered on the spot.

Zookeepers arriving for duty the next morning found only the head and ribs left behind in a pile.

Dalila Puglia, an environmental prosecutor, has now been commissioned by the government to investigate the crime.

However, the horse was not the first zoo animal to fall victim to the effects of Venezuela's crippling food shortages. Vietnamese pigs and sheep were reportedly stolen from the same zoo a few weeks earlier.

President Nicolas Maduro is struggling to hold his country together amid looting, riots and shortages of food and medicine.

His three-year tenure has been marked by a severe deterioration in the country's economy, with triple-digit inflation, a collapse of the local currency on the black market and severe recession.

The 53-year-old president blames the country's crisis on an economic war waged by the opposition and Washington.

Last week, Maduro raised the country's minimum wage by 50pc, making it equal to $23 a month at the black market exchange rate.

Thousands of Venezuelans streamed across the border with Colombia last weekend to buy food and other basics.

Maduro is trying to fend off attempts to hold a recall referendum and battling for Venezuela to take the rotating leadership of the Mercosur trading alliance - something which Brazil is determined to block.

A poll earlier this week by local polling firm Datanalysis showed that more than three-quarters of those surveyed disapproved of Mr Maduro's tenure, while 93.6pc saw the country's situation negatively.

Only 22.1pc believed that Maduro should see out his term, which is due to end in early 2019.

The opposition has called for mass protest rallies in Caracas on September 1.

Earlier this month, Marlene Sifontes, a union leader for employees of Inparques, the state parks agency which oversees zoos, said that 50 animals in the zoo had starved to death over the past six months.

She said the dead animals included Vietnamese pigs, tapirs, rabbits and birds.

Lions and tigers at the Caracas zoo are being fed mango and pumpkin by staff trying to make up for reduced rations of meat, while an elephant is eating tropical fruit instead of its usual diet of hay, the union leader said.

Irish Independent

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