Venezuela is in the middle of a food shortage, but instead of using federal funds to import food, president Nicolas Maduro is giving monetary aid to Cuba.
Cuba and Venezuela are allies and have a joint partnership that is built on their disagreements with the United States and rejection of capitalism. They are joined in an alliance over what they call U.S. Imperialism, and have benefited from Venezuela trading oil in exchange for medical and technical services from Cuba.
And since Cuba is in a state of disarray after being hit by the deadly Hurricane Irma, Maduro has decided to donate food and other goods. His actions were televised on both Cuban and Venezuelan television.
Even in the United States, where homeowners insurance is required by law, 73% of people don’t have a flood insurance policy that is separate from their standard homeowner’s coverage. In developing countries hit hard by Hurricane Irma, thousands of people have lost everything in the storm, and many Cubans are in dire need of help. Of course, the Venezuelans have problems of their own and can’t necessarily afford to help others.
In fact, the widespread food shortage has actually caused Maduro to come up with a unique strategy in order to feed his people. He has created a plan, called Plan Rabbit, has the government giving out rabbits to those under the poverty line as a source of meat. Maduro says that rabbits are one of the most sustainable options for food available as they provide an ample source of protein while breeding quite quickly.
The problem is, rabbit is rarely eaten in Venezuelan culture.
In response to the distribution of the bunnies, angry Venezuelans adopted them as pets, put bows around their necks, and even snuggled with them at night in bed. For Venezuelans, Plan Rabbit is laughable because rabbits are only seen as household pets or funny mascots for sporting teams, not a source of food, much less the answer to their food and medicine shortage.
To deal with the backlash, Freddy Bernal, the government minister in charge of Plan Rabbit, is thinking about launching a nationwide publicity campaign across all media channels as a way to convince the Venezuelan people that rabbits are food, not pets. Since an estimated 23% of Facebook users check their account at least five times a day, Bernal is hopeful he can sway some people’s minds.
But he faces an uphill battle since there is such strong opposition to the Maduro government, which protesters believe isn’t taking the food crisis seriously. Henrique Capriles is just one of the many Venezuelans who disagrees with Plan Rabbit. Capriles, a very prominent Venezuelan opposition leader, took to social media to criticize Maduro. He wrote:
“Are you serious? You want people in this country to start raising rabbits to solve hunger in our country?”
And it turns out, yes he does.