The situation in Venezuela has become so bad that even soldiers are struggling to support themselves.
Over the weekend, six members of the Venezuelan military were detained by local authorities for stealing goats, the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported Sunday. It said the soldiers confessed to stealing the goats and said they did it to feed themselves, since they had no food left in their barracks.
"It's not a good sign when your military doesn't have enough food, and when the military has been relegated to guarding and protecting food lines," said Jason Marczak, director of the Latin America Economic Growth Initiative at the Atlantic Council. "This is endemic of the problems going on across the country."
Venezuela has been hard hit by food shortages, a dizzying inflation rate of about 181 percent and a collapse in the price of oil — its most critical export.
Crude prices are down more than 25 percent in the past 12 months, despite a sharp bounce from their February lows, and the pain is expected to continue in Venezuela. IPD Latin America, a U.S.-based energy consulting firm, gave a "pessimistic scenario" Tuesday for Venezuela's oil output to decrease to an average of 2.35 million barrels per day this year. The firm's previous estimate was 2.62 million barrels.
"Our original forecast for 2016 annual production of 2.62 mmb/d could still be achieved with an oil price hike in the 70-80 US$/bbl range during the second half of the year," the firm said in a release. U.S. crude traded near $44 a barrel Wednesday, and some market watchers see it near a peak.
On the political front, opponents of President Nicolas Maduro won control of the legislature last December from the ruling Socialists for the first time in 16 years. But the newly elected majority, as well as the sitting president, have struggled mightily to contend with the country's economic struggles, trying everything from raising the minimum wage by 30 percent to cutting the work week to four days in order to save electricity. Late last month, Maduro ordered public employees to work only two days a week because of drought and an electricity shortage.
"I think we could be at a breaking point," Marczak said. "I think it's important to pay attention to what's going on in Venezuela."
Correction: This story was revised to correct that the opposition won control of the legislature from Maduro and his ruling Socialists; it also deleted an incorrect reference to public employees representing the bulk of Venezuela's workforce.