Desperate Venezuelans eating spoiled meat as country's worst economic downfall makes food unaffordable

Flies crawl over meat Credit: AP

People in the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo are queuing up to buy spoiled meat.

Amid the worst economic downfall in the oil-rich country's history, with hyperinflation and nine-months of rolling power outages, it's one of the only ways they can get any protein.

"What are we to do?" Asked Yeudis Luna, a father buying food for his three sons at Las Pulgas, a market in the once-wealthy city of Maracaibo.

"The economic situation is awful, the pittance that we earn is not enough for anything, I came to buy what I could, but this is all spoiled."

The 55-year-old told how he would soak the meat in vinegar overnight, before rinsing it it lemon in a bid to make it edible.

After eating the rancid meat, his six-year-old son vomited and suffered diarrhoea.

Hyperinflation has made most foodstuffs unaffordable. Credit: AP

Some 90% of Venezuelans are currently living in poverty, with basic services like running water and electricity now luxuries.

Soaring inflation rates have also made basic foodstuffs unaffordable.

Inflation rose to 82,700% in July, in comparison, the level of inflation in the UK is 2.5%.

In a recent episode of Venezuela's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the prize money of two million bolivars was worth around 13p, while it used to be valued at around £1,500.

Four different butchers at the Las Pulgas market are selling spoiled meat Credit: AP

The situation is even worse in Maracaibo - once known as the Saudi Arabia of Venezuela due to its vast oil wealth - due to a fire on August 10 which destroyed a power line supplying the city of 1.5 million people.

Butcher Johel Prieto said the outage turned an entire side of beef rotten.

He said he ground up much of it and mixed it with a fresh, red meat in an attempt to mask the spoilage.

But while the pungent tray of ground meat and other graying cuts drew swarms of flies, it also drew a queue of customers.

"The food of the poor is rotten food," the butcher said.

Yet at the same market, Mr Prieto had competition.

Another butcher at Las Pulgas was selling spoiled chicken, while two more stalls were also selling meat that had gone off.

Butcher Johel Prieto said he had mixed spoiled meat with fresh meat in a bid to mask the spoilage. Credit: AP

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro blames the country's difficulties on an economic war waged by the United States and other capitalist powers.

Venezuela is the world's most oil-rich country, but back in 2013, oil prices crashed, plunging the nation into financial uncertainty.

While other countries cut back on spending to mitigate the impact, Venezuela simply started printing more money in order to pay workers and fund welfare schemes.