Caracas, Venezuela, May 11, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Garbage dumps have become “a regular place for people to eat” in Venezuela, says a local priest lamenting the nation's increasingly dire economic and political crisis. “There's a lot of suffering,” Fr. Victor Salomon, a priest who works in the Archdiocese of Caracas, told CNA. “This has been something commonly seen. It is really something very painful because the people are really in great need.”

Riots have spiked in Venezuela in recent years, resulting from unemployment, food and medicine shortages, and President Nicolás Maduro's authoritarian policies. Price controls in 2003 caused inflation rates to sky rocket on basic necessities, baring the access of food and medicines to the people. Poor socialist policies have effected an estimated 160 products, and while they remain affordable on the shelf, they are soon swept off and sold on the black market at a triple digit inflation rate.

Violent riots have fluctuated since the death of the previous president Hugo Chavez in 2013, but gained even more traction after opposition leaders were arrested last year and Maduro's attempt for more power by dissolving the legislature in March of this year.

Speaking to CNA, Fr. Salomon said that repression has intensified since President Maduro announced the convocation of a Constitutional Assembly. In that regard, he said that “some very painful scenes have come out, for example armored vehicles running over some of the protesters, or even people from the National Guard with a repression never seen before, firing at point blank range at those who are protesting. It's really very painful.”

The priest said that Venezuelans do not want more violence, shortages or “more violations of the constitution and human rights.” Pope Francis recently sent a message to the country's bishops, urging them to continue promoting a culture of encounter.

“Dear brothers, I wish to encourage you to not allow the beloved children of Venezuela to allow themselves to be overcome by distrust or despair since these are evils that sink into the hearts of people when they do not see future prospects,” the Pope said May 5. “I am persuaded that Venezuela's serious problems can be solved if there is the desire to establish bridges, to dialogue seriously and to comply with the agreements that were reached.”