Venezuela food crisis and army
A Venezuelan soldier controls the crowd while people queue to try to buy cooking oil and margarine at a supermarket in Caracas, VenezuelaReuters

President Nicolas Maduro has allowed the military to take over food distribution in Venezuela with the country being repeatedly battered by one crisis after another. The government's bid is aimed at curbing chronic food shortages and comes amid dire warnings from the opposition against granting sweeping powers to the military in the oil-driven economy.

Maduro signed the decree on Tuesday, 12 July, giving Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino, the chief of armed forces, the necessary powers to control the distribution system amid daily riots.

The socialist leader's latest move creates a new entity called Supply Command, which would deal with the purchase and distribution of staple items such as food, medicines and other essentials. Henceforth, the armed forces can technically force private players to direct their sales towards state-run bodies. The step has been dubbed as a "matter of the nation's security and defence".

"We have taken some ports and have started to go to some silos, warehouses, and public and private businesses," said Padrino following the takeover, reported the Deutsche Welle. Subsequent to this move, Padrino has become one of the most powerful figures in the oil-rich economy potentially undermining the roles of other top authorities such as vice president and industrial minister.

"I don't like militarisation, military intervention in non-military matters," said Padrino in his televised speech.

A combination of skyrocketing prices and shortage of food supplies has put Venezuela, which has one of the world's largest oil reserves, in a steep economic crisis. While Maduro blamed his adversaries such as the US for waging an "economic war" against Venezuela, his domestic political opponents point fingers at the decaying socialist system of managing the economy.

Responding to the latest announcement on Maduro's decree, economist Luis Vicente Leon posted on Twitter: "The official announcements to address the economic crisis and supply only deepen the causes of the problem. If we assume that the cause of the crisis is the economic war and not the primitive model of intervention and control, everything else will be useless."