Caracas (AFP) - Residents barricaded their shops Friday in a Venezuelan city hit by violence after the country's food crisis erupted into deadly looting.
The unrest came days ahead of a new key stage in the opposition's bid to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office: the authentication of signatures calling for a recall referendum.
Police arrested hundreds of people in the latest unrest, which heightened hardship and political uncertainty in the impoverished oil-producing nation.
Some shop owners welded their shutters closed in the old colonial city of Cumana, where dozens of stores were looted on Tuesday.
The Caribbean coastal city is the latest flashpoint in a crisis that has killed at least five people so far.
"It ended in total ruin because the businesses had not only their stock pillaged but also their furniture. It was total destruction," said Ruben Saud, president of the Cumana Chamber of Commerce.
The army was sent in to keep order in Cumana after Tuesday's outbreak of looting, which erupted during a protest against food shortages.
The chaos started when gangs of looters on motorcycles raided trucks transporting supplies.
"They were beating and robbing drivers. They pillaged trucks, bakeries and supermarkets," Saud told AFP.
The state governor said more than 400 people were arrested in Cumana. READ MORE