MARACAY, Venezuela (AP) — Rafael Toro, a student at Venezuela's top veterinary school, suspected something was amiss when a beloved horse called Miss Congeniality didn't greet him at the fence one recent morning along with others in the campus' small herd.
The bright-eyed, bay-colored mare had earned her nickname for helping disabled students overcome their fear of riding horses.
To his shock, Toro discovered the horse's skin and dismembered bones hidden among trees in the corner pasture of the campus in the Venezuelan city of Maracay. Thieves had hopped the fence, slaughtered the horse and made off with her meat.
"I burst into tears," said Toro.
The slaughter isn't an isolated incident. Across Venezuela, as the economy collapses and inflation leaves residents struggling to afford scarce food, crimes of hunger and desperation are soaring.