President Nicolas Maduro has overseen an unprecedented depreciation in his country’s currency since taking office, with the bolivar now down 99.5 percent to 5,100 per dollar in the black market that everyday Venezuelans use.
As Bloomberg reports, the sharp decline has wiped out savings and made buying imported goods all but impossible, helping fuel the anger directed at the government in street protests that have turned deadly in recent weeks.
While Maduro has raised the minimum wage almost 20 times during his tenure, it’s still the equivalent of just $40 a month.
So, with the Bolivar having lost 99.5% of its value in the last few years, a shortage of resources and the ferocity displayed by security forces tasked with breaking up increasingly desperate demonstrations have forced protesters to come up with creative new forms of self-defense...
As El Pais reports, the devices have been dubbed “Puputov cocktails” on social media, and they are becoming the trending weapon at anti-government protests in Venezuela. That is pronounced “poo-poo-tov,” and as the name indicates, they are nothing more and nothing less than bombs made with feces.
Opposition supporters use a giant sling shot 'Crapapult' to throw 'Poopootovs', a bottle filled with feces, during a rally against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas.
This low-tech weapon is now being used by protesters facing riot officers from the National Guard and the Bolivarian National Police on the streets of a country in the grip of social, political and economic upheaval. The next protest is scheduled for Wednesday, and posters are calling it “La Marcha de la Mierda,” literally the Shit March.
The first recorded use of excrement bombs was last weekend at a skirmish in Los Teques, the capital of Miranda state, just a few kilometers out of Caracas. According to an account that soon went viral, around a dozen National Guard officers were pelted with excrement. Before moving out again, several members of this militarized police force were allegedly so disgusted that they vomited.
Whether accurate or not, the story served to fuel interest in Puputov cocktails, with many online users exchanging “recipes” for preparing them. Although it takes little more than water, human waste and a glass container, messages containing precise, step-by-step instructions are available on WhatsApp.
"These kids live in a dictatorship, they have no other option but to protest however they see fit," said Maria Montilla, 49, behind lines of youths with masks, slingshots and makeshift wooden shields.
"There's nothing explosive here. It's our way of saying, 'Get lost Maduro, you're useless!'" said one young protester, who asked not to be named, between tossing bottles of feces.
As Reuters reports, the protests so far have failed to garner massive support from poorer, traditionally pro-Chavez sectors of Venezuela's 30 million people. But a bigger cross-section of society has been apparent at recent marches, some of which drew hundreds of thousands.
Looting has been breaking out in some cities, especially at night.
Chavez's former spy-master, Miguel Torres, has broken with Maduro's government, despite having served as interior minister and fighting against protests in 2014. He warned on Wednesday that the violence in Venezuela may be getting out of control.
"What is happening may be the starting point for a huge armed confrontation between Venezuelans," he told Reuters. "Nobody wants that."