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Ana Nuñez, a 62-year-old retired municipal worker in western Venezuela, says her meals often consist of just a few corn-flour pancakes, known as arepas.

Even when she has money to buy groceries in the city of Maracaibo’s teeming flea market, she said that “instead of quality food they sell garbage, like animal hides and rotten cheese.”

A widespread scarcity of gasoline is the latest blow to domestic food production in Venezuela, preventing goods from getting to market and farmers from filling up their tractors. Food production in this oil-rich nation, led by its socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, had already been hobbled by shortages of seeds and agrochemicals, price controls that made raising crops unprofitable and government seizures of farms and food-processing plants.

Venezuelans aren’t the only ones going hungry. Across Latin America the economic blow caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown millions out of work and into poverty. From Mexico City to Santiago, people are skipping meals, lining up at soup kitchens and begging, United Nations agencies say.

But conditions in Venezuela, which even before the pandemic was suffering the worst economic meltdown in its history, are by far the most dire.

A recent U.N.-sponsored report described Venezuela as having the fourth-worst food crisis in the world, behind only war-ravaged Yemen, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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