Teargas fired as Venezuela protesters chant 'We want food' near presidential palace

People protest over severe food and medicine shortages near the presidential palace in Caracas on June 2, 2016.
People protest over severe food and medicine shortages near the presidential palace in Caracas on June 2, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

CARACAS (REUTERS) - Venezuelan security forces fired teargas at protesters chanting "We want food!" near the presidential palace in Caracas on Thursday, the latest street demonstration in the crisis-hit OPEC nation.

National Guard soldiers and police blocked a road near the Miraflores palace in downtown Caracas, an area that is a traditional bastion of government support, after scores of angry people began trying to approach, witnesses told Reuters.

President Nicolas Maduro, under intense pressure over a worsening economic crisis in the South American nation of 30 million, had been scheduled to address a rally nearby.

The protest had spilled out of long lines for food at shops in the area, the witnesses said. "I've been here since 8 in the morning. There's no more food in the shops and supermarkets. ... We're hungry and tired," one woman told pro-opposition broadcaster Vivoplay.

Despite the country's having the world's biggest oil reserves, Venezuelans are suffering severe shortages of consumer goods ranging from milk to flour, the highest inflation in the world and a shrinking economy.

Maduro blames an "economic war" by foes and the fall in global oil prices. Critics say the crisis is the consequence of failed socialist policies for the last 17 years.

The opposition coalition is seeking a referendum this year to recall Maduro, and citizens' protests over shortages, power-cuts and crime are occurring daily around the nation.

Lootings and lynchings are on the rise also.