Many Poor Venezuelans Are Too Hungry to Join Antigovernment Protests – Kejal Vyas April 20, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET


President Nicolás Maduro’s support has crumbled in slums, but they are still disconnected from opposition

Venezuelan Rebeca León, who scavenges for food in the streets of Caracas, at home in the city’s Petare shantytown in February.

Venezuelan Rebeca León, who scavenges for food in the streets of Caracas, at home in the city’s Petare shantytown in February. Photo: federico parra/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

CARACAS, Venezuela—President Nicolás Maduro has lost support among the legions of poor Venezuelans that once backed the late Hugo Chávez, but they have largely shown little interest in joining the opposition-led protests that have convulsed the country the past three weeks.

Many of the impoverished residents of the vast slums that ring Caracas and other major cities are angry about a collapsing economy and food shortages. But Venezuela’s political unrest remains mostly confined to middle-class enclaves, underscoring the struggle the opposition here faces in trying to unseat an increasingly authoritarian government.

“All I have is hunger—I don’t care if the people protest or not,” said laborer Alfonzo Molero in a slum in Venezuela’s second-largest city, Maracaibo. “With what strength will I protest if my stomach is empty since yesterday?”

Until the slums rise up, Mr. Maduro will likely hang on, analysts say.

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