A protester joining the thousands calling for an end to Venezuela’s socialist regime on Thursday approached an armed military vehicle wearing nothing but a knapsack and holding a Bible, demanding law enforcement stop attacking protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The man’s body sported countless wounds that appeared to be the product of a spray of rubber bullets, which continued as he climbed onto a military tank yelling, “stop throwing bombs,” referring to the tear gas canisters used against civilians.
“Please stop lobbing bombs, brother,” he repeatedly told the soldiers and members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard (GNB).
Videos of the man’s protest (warning: graphic) circulating on social media show him approaching authorities slowly, climbing on the tank and being immediately hit with a barrage of rubber bullets. Close-up images of the man show the book in his hand was, indeed, a Bible. On Thursday night, CNN quoted the man speaking to local media, stating that his rubber bullet wounds hurt less than the hunger facing Venezuela.
Venezuela is facing a severe food crisis following years of socialist mismanagement that has included strict price controls, rationing, and giving the military full control of the nation’s food supply. The average Venezuelan lost nearly 20 pounds in 2016 due to food shortages, and 15 percent of Venezuelans rely on eating industrial garbage to survive. Polls show a majority cannot secure three meals of food a day for themselves, with basic food items such as flour, vegetable oil, and milk in short supply.
Dictator Nicolás Maduro has blamed the shortages on the “economic war,” a term used to decribe a conspiracy theory in which the United States is attempting to weaken socialist Venezuela in order to execute an Iraq-style invasion on the country, and has arrested bakers unable to produce the quantities of bread the government has deemed appropriate on a daily basis.