A daily struggle has become the new normal for Venezuelans. Economic and political turmoil regularly send thousands into the streets to protest, both for and against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, sometimes with deadly results.
More than 75 people have died since the unrest began in the spring. On Tuesday, a police helicopter launched a daring attack on the Venezuelan Supreme Court — a dramatic escalation of the months-long crisis engulfing Maduro’s regime.
The helicopter was apparently stolen and piloted by an officer in the country’s investigative police force, Oscar Perez. The attackers fired gunshots and lobbed grenades as the chopper strafed the court building and the Interior Ministry in Caracas, officials said.
Away from the streets, Venezuelans struggle to eke out a living in the face of severe shortages in food, medicine and other basic supplies. Here’s how some lives have been disrupted:
The baker who can’t bake
That’s the bleak reality for Javier Dominguez, whose industrial bakery in Caracas is eerily silent.
Ten industrial ovens are cold. Hundreds of shelves that used to stack loaves are all empty. No bread has been baked since flour deliveries stopped two months ago. Dominguez got his flour delivered by the government, and he isn’t sure why it won’t deliver to him anymore. He blames Maduro’s government for strangling his business.
Two months ago, 60 people worked here, processing up to 60 sacks of flour (3,000 kilograms) per day.
Half have now been laid off. The rest will likely follow soon when credit runs out for the business that Dominguez set up with partners in the 1970s.
Bankruptcy is coming for this baker who can’t bake.
“I consider all of this gone,” he said, looking around his business.
The doctor who can’t prescribe medicine
Dr. Christian Ramos has education, training and experience. But he struggles to treat his patients because neither he nor they can find the medications they need.
Most drugs and medical supplies are imported to Venezuela, so with the country low on funds, the supply has dried up — sometimes with lethal consequences.
Simple, curable illnesses can turn into much more serious ones because of a lack of basics such as antibiotics, Ramos said.
The hairdresser with little running water
Jesus Lopez, 22, struggles to do even the most basic functions of his trade as a hairdresser.
“We have water on Monday and Tuesday. The rest (of the week we rely on) a tank. If we did not have a tank, we’d be lost,” Lopez said.
Even so, he and his colleagues have to conserve water so it will last for the remainder of the week.
Finding shampoo or shaving gel is another challenge. The stores that once sold beauty supplies have all shuttered their doors.
“As a business, (hairdressing) tools are really expensive to buy. You might have to invest a couple of months’ salary to buy a single tool and really hope nothing breaks down, because getting replacement parts are a nightmare,” he said.
The restaurant manager without diners
Franco Rojas, 58, manages the Tasca de Juancho, a renowned Peruvian restaurant in Caracas. But it’s hard to cook Peruvian food with no rice or pasta.
In the capital, these two staples can almost solely be found on the black market or by driving hours to other cities.
Transportation costs ultimately get passed on to consumers.
“There are less and less people eating out,” Rojas told CNN. They simply can’t afford it, he said.
Inflation and shortages aren’t the only things hurting his industry. Restaurants in Caracas are having to close earlier in the evening due to the increased fear of violence.
The mother who misses her daughter
The misery in Venezuela takes more than just a physical toll. The economic conditions have also split up families.
“This is impacting us as a generation, the generation of my husband and I, who are seeing our children leave,” says Rosa Blanco, a 53-year-old mother in Chacao, a middle-class neighborhood in Caracas.
The lack of opportunities and overall insecurity in Venezuela led Blanco’s daughter to flee to Mexico.
When she was her daughter’s age, Blanco said she would never have thought of leaving the country. “We had it all.”
Now all she has left is what she called ” ‘frust-rage,’ a mix of frustration and rage.”