Strict food rationing policies and price controls continue to challenge Venezuelans like Maria Joya in the kitchen. "Arroz con Pollo" or "Carne Mechada" are a luxury on their dining table now.
As the oil-rich country's devastating inflation spiked meat sector prices, the socialist government started to enforce a price ceiling on beef and chicken. Now Venezuelan consumers can't find it at all. Yuca and plantains are their main dish.
After the government forced butchers to reduce prices about 30 percent, the handwritten signs saying they were out of beef covered their refrigerated display cases. Aul Landai, a meat vendor at a market in downtown Caracas, said some haven't been able to stay in business.
"The butchers are the ones losing," Landai said.
Consumers and butchers aren't the only ones hurting. Restaurateurs and street vendors depend on their providers. Some are opting to risk buying from the black market. Others are having to modify their menus with skyrocketing prices. Burgers have become a luxury for most.
To stay in business, some entrepreneurs are finding it more profitable to sell "bajo cuerda," meaning they are choosing to sell to those who are willing to pay more in the black market. They are creating fraudulent receipts to deal with the increased scrutiny from law enforcement, the Venezuela Al Dia reported.
Similar policies in the agricultural sector plummeted production and fueled black markets.
Ana Lucrecia Rojas, 33, works at a hair salon in Miami-Dade. She is among the exiled Venezuelans in South Florida who regularly ship food to relatives. Last week, she was getting ready to send boxes to Maracaibo and Caracas in time for Christmas.
"I send them dry goods, corn flour, beans, rice, sugar, dog food and cans," Rojas said. "The shipping companies in Doral are basically just sending food. They killed food production and there is a humanitarian crisis."
The Venezuelan government denies there is such a crisis. During a recent interview in French media, Delcy Rodriguez, the head of the constituent assembly, said Venezuela rejected child malnutrition aid from the United Nations, because admitting that there is a humanitarian crisis would have paved the way for U.S. intervention.
"It's a reality that Venezuela is under a U.S. military threat," Rodriguez said.