CARACAS At least 22 people were arrested on Christmas Day in the southern Venezuelan city of Ciudad Bolivar, after several cases of looting and attempted theft led security forces to impose strong security measures in the municipality, local media reported.
Police in Bolivar state had to throw tear gas bombs to break up the crowd in front of a liquor store in the city, to which some of the locals responded by pelting them with stones, the daily El Nacional said.
Similar incidents were repeated this Monday at liquor stores, food markets and other establishments around the city, which the army and police continued patrolling Tuesday after deploying armored cars and other vehicles to control the situation.
The Chavista mayor of Ciudad Bolivar, Sergio Hernandez, made a call for calm Monday night with a message on Twitter about the police operation being launched to settle any situation and guarantee peace.
Venezuela is having the most unstable Christmas season in its history, amid a deepening economic and social crisis marked by shortages of medicines, food and other basic goods, along with soaring inflation.
Faced with that situation, the government and the National Guard (militarized police) have carried out several massive operations to force storekeepers to lower their prices by as much as 50 percent, which has in turn caused long lines and scuffles in front of the affected businesses, whose owners feel forced to close down rather than suffer the losses.
In the days before Christmas, the oil-producing nation has seen numerous spontaneous protests when subsidized food products and other items of social aid promised by President Nicolas Maduro failed to arrive.
In several western states of the country, for example, over the last few days there have been long lines of vehicles waiting at service stations that were out of gasoline.