April 29, 2016 / 1:28 AM / 4 years ago

Venezuela's Congress orders food minister sacked over shortages

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition-dominated Congress on Thursday ordered the dismissal of Food Minister Rodolfo Marco over chronic shortages of staple goods that have become the primary complaint about President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

The opposition majority used a constitutional censure vote to order that Maduro dismiss Marco. Legislators had previously summoned him for questioning over the shortages, but he declined to appear.

“It cannot be that today in Venezuela, 3 million citizens eat less than twice a day, and the majority of them do not eat dairy, meat or eggs,” said opposition deputy Carlos Paparoni.

The ruling Socialist Party may simply ignore the censure vote or seek to have it shot down by the Supreme Court, which has routinely sided with Maduro in disputes with Congress since the opposition’s legislative elections victory in December.

Responding earlier this month to congressional criticism of Marco, Maduro said “nobody touches the food minister” and that “the revolution will not be censured by anyone, much less an immoral National Assembly,” according to local media reports.

The growing difficulties in obtaining staple goods has helped spur the opposition’s efforts to seek a recall of Maduro.

A combination of food shortages and electricity rationing contributed to dozens of incidents of looting around the country on Tuesday and Wednesday. Maduro attributed that violence to right-wing conspirators seeking to destabilize his government.

He has criticized the assembly for continuing to hold sessions despite an executive order that the public sector should work only on Mondays and Tuesdays, to save power.

Residents in the Caracas slum of Petare this month said they are eating more starches and skipping meals because they cannot find food or cannot afford to buy what is available.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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