Fact Check

Does a Meme Show Starving Citizens in Venezuela Eating Garbage?

A Turning Point USA meme that claimed to showcase poverty in Venezuela co-opted an unrelated image from another time and place to do so.

Published June 20, 2019

Former workers of the oil sector, some of who are holding a hunger strike since May 30 of unpaid labour liabilities, demonstrate demanding a meeting with visiting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Chilean Michelle Bachelet, in Caracas on June 20, 2019. - Bachelet arrived in Venezuela Wednesday as part of a visit to review the country's ongoing economic and political crisis. (Photo by Cristian HERNANDEZ / AFP)        (Photo credit should read CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A meme image shows starving citizens in Venezuela eating garbage.

On 22 May 2019, the conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA posted an inaccurate meme on its Facebook page purporting to show an image of starving citizens eating trash in Venezuela.

The image on the bottom half of the meme doesn't depict people in Venezuela eating garbage. The picture was taken by a Reuters photographer in 2013, according to the caption. "Scavengers search for items to recycle at a waste dump in Bogor, a city in Indonesia's West Java province," the caption reads.

Venezuela is suffering extreme economic instability — about 90 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to a UN report cited by American Public Media's "Marketplace," and Reuters reported that some Venezuelans have been reduced to scavenging for edible food in garbage bins.

Because of this, the South American country has been the focus of ideologues campaigning against socialism as an economic model. Its woes have been used as a cudgel against some American politicians like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), who bill themselves as democratic socialists.

The Trump administration had made a priority of ousting Venezuela's socialist President Nicolás Maduro (whom Trump has referred to as a "Cuban puppet"), recognizing instead his political opponent Juan Guaidó as president. Despite that rhetoric, Maduro has remained in office.


Winn, Patrick. "The World Is Ignoring One of Cheap Oil’s Biggest Victims."   PRI. 12 December 2016.

DeYoung, Karen, and Dawsey, Josh. "With Maduro Entrenched in Venezuela, Trump Loses Patience and Interest in Issue, Officials Say."   The Washington Post. 19 June 2019.

Valderrama, Shaylim. "Warding Off Hunger, Venezuelans Find Meals in Garbage Bins."   Reuters. 1 March 2019.

Anand, Anu and Chiriguayo, Danielle. "A Look at Venezuela's Economy as Maduro Begins His Second Term."   Marketplace. 10 January 2019.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more