cocoa pods chocolate

Venezuela is in crisis. An abundance of oil made it Latin America’s wealthiest nation, but plunging barrel prices exposed its economic dependence upon it and a spiral into chaos began. Last week, thousands of protesters raged in the streets against perceived government corruption and incompetence, only to be met by tear gas. The country is teetering on societal collapse, not helped by the fact that food is desperately scarce.

“People kill over a packet of rice,” said one Venezuelan on Food Stories from Venezuela: Eating in a Failed State (Radio 4, 9 April, 12.30pm). “They are losing their values in the middle of this misery that has been created.”

Presenter Dan Saladino headed to a supermarket where basics like pasta and rice haven’t been seen for months. People queue for hours but still leave empty-handed. Fights break out over flour. People who previously “enjoyed a middle-class life” skip meals.

Chocolate could provide salvation. Exporting the highly prized cacao pod was how Venezuela made money before it discovered its oil. Saladino tried to inject some positivity into his “incredible, terrifying, moving and inspirational” trip by interviewing women who want to revive abandoned cacao plantations and manufacture chocolate from bean to bar again.

As he did so, a cacao farmer patrolled around armed with a rifle and a machete, a blunt reminder of the existing situation. “When people are struggling to live, anything is good to steal,” shrugged one woman. Even a cacao pod. Happy Easter, everyone.