In Venezuela, the collapse of the economy and the subsequent food shortages has lead to a new type of crime: hunger crime. Out-of-control hyperinflation – 1,000,000% in 2018 – has meant that prices are doubling every week. Even employed people with steady jobs can’t afford to buy the most basic goods.

Mayra Castro, 37, prepares food at her makeshift home in Petare, Caracas. Her younger daughter died of hunger when she was only 1 year old. “When I took her to the hospital the doctor said I should give her chicken or meat but, how could I afford to buy chicken?” © Ignacio Marin
Roxana Gutierrez, 19, looks after her son. While she and her husband, Carlos, 20, had steady jobs, it became harder for them to find food, which pushed Carlos to begin to steal motorcycles. He is now serving sentence and she is pregnant of their second baby. © Ignacio Marin

The last Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI) reports that 89.4% of respondents said their household income was not enough to buy food, and 61% reported sleeping hungry at night. A report this year from Cáritas found that the average family required 98 times the minimum wage to afford adequate food to subsist.

A grandmother feeds her grandchild at a charity kitchen run by volunteers and an NGO. Often someone in the family ends up giving up their meal so that the other members of the family can eat a bit more. © Ignacio Marin

The epidemic of empty stomachs has unleashed a new wave of hunger-motivated crimes. The rise of these crimes has been tracked by NGOs such as the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence. In a country where virtually all crimes go unpunished and money is worth less than the paper it is printed on, crime becomes a viable solution to hunger. Fathers go out at night to steal motorcycles. Gangsters recruit youngsters by paying them in food. Crime and insecurity is on the rise. Robberies and kidnappings have become a major industry. The direct consequences are suffered on the streets: 1.331 people were killed in Caracas within 12 months, and 73 Venezuelans die a violent death every day.

—Ignacio Marin

Editor’s Note: Ignacio Marin was selected as a Documentary Storytelling Finalist in the year’s LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards. Be sure to check out his full project, as well as the other award-winning images, here.