By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Venezuelans, facing an incipient humanitarian crisis, should stop viewing rabbits as cute pets and just eat them, according to a plan discussed publicly by embattled head of state Nicolas Maduro and his top “urban agriculture” official Freddy Bernal.
The “Plan Conejo” (Rabbit Plan) has already been pilot-tested by Bernal, who is a cabinet minister. The pets, errr, “animals” bred profusely as expected, but there was a hitch: slum inhabitants had grown fond of their furry charges.
“When he (Bernal) returned, surprise, people had little bows on their rabbits and had taken to them as pets,” said a clearly disappointed Maduro during a televised speech Tuesday, telling about Bernal’s first, failed, test to get people in “communities” (by word for pro-government slums or barrios) to view rabbits as their next meal. “That was the first setback of the Rabbit Plan,” said Maduro, turning deadly serious near the end of the anecdote.
More rabbits will soon be delivered to more communities, Maduro said, adding that he expects that “they reproduce like rabbits.”
Bernal, a former police officer who served time for his involvement in the 1992 failed coup attempt that propelled Hugo Chavez to national prominence, explained the plan in dead-serious tones like a stern task master, while Maduro provided the occasional comic relief.
You just need to see the rabbit through a wartime perspective, Bernal explained.
“We have been taught that the rabbit is a pet. That’s all well but the rabbit needs to be seen through the perspective of economic warfare,” Bernal said. Maduro has since 2014 claimed that “economic warfare” (Guerra Economica), a fourth-generation form of war being waged by the U.S. and its local allies is the main culprit behind the high inflation and food and medicines shortages being seen in Venezuela over the last few years
Bernal was all business: “A female rabbit can give birth to ten, 12 bunnies, of which eight grow. In two and a half months we have a two and a half kilos rabbit,” the former policeman explained.
Animal protein is sorely lacking in Venezuelans’ diets, according to NGOs such as Bengoa and Catholic charities. Even Maduro and Bernal admitted the deficiency during their discussion.
About 75% of all Venezuelans have lost 8.7 kilos, or 20 pounds, over the last 12 months, according to Encovi, an annual living-conditions poll taken by Venezuelan universities. A third of Venezuelans, including children and the elderly, eat twice a day or less, also according to Encovi. Some 93% of Venezuelans also say their salaries are not enough to eat three times a day. Encovi also says that 82% of all homes live below the poverty line.
Some 75% of Venezuelans make minimum wage, $13 a month, the lowest in the hemisphere. A kilo of beef can go for $2.