CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelans prepared to march Saturday to protest hunger and oppression as the South American country grapples with rising violence in food lines.
The past week saw daily reports of looting in supermarkets and raids on food trucks. The country's opposition coalition called for Saturday's march after a man was killed and 60 were arrested amid the looting of several grocery stores in an industrial town.
A local nonprofit, Venezuelan Observatory, has said there were 56 episodes of looting and 76 looting attempts in the first half of 2015.
President Nicolas Maduro has called these episodes part of a plot to weaken the country's 16-year-old socialist revolution, and has accused the United States of helping orchestrate them.
Some blame the violence on the discontinuation of an unpopular rationing system at government-run stores. These stores, which generally are better stocked than private markets, had been controlling the length of lines by limiting the days Venezuelans could shop based on their government identification numbers.
The spate of violence, and accompanying pictures of chaos that have rocketed around social media, recall the specter of the "Caracazo," a four-day convulsion of looting in 1989 that left hundreds dead and is seared in Venezuela's national memory.
While many staples are hard to come by, it's not clear that hunger or malnutrition actually are on the rise. The most sought-after products in Venezuela include corn flour, refined sugar, and cooking oil. Produce remains easy to find.
Government statistics show nutrition continuing to improve, and officials are sponsoring a campaign to reduce the country's 40 percent obesity rate by half.
More than two-thirds of adults are overweight here, according to the World Health Organization, almost as many as in the United States.
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