SAN CRISTOBAL/BARINAS, Venezuela, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Hungry mobs ransacked a food collection center, and a supermarket in Venezuela's western Andean state of Merida on Thursday and reportedly even slaughtered cattle grazing in a field as unrest over food shortages spread through the country.
An opposition lawmaker from Merida, Carlos Paparoni, said four people had died and 10 were injured in the chaos over the last two days, but he did not specify the circumstances.
Four years of recession and the world's highest inflation have plunged millions of Venezuelans into poverty, and President Nicolas Maduro's authoritarian socialist regime faces mounting unrest.
Venezuela's Information Ministry did not respond to a request for information about the latest disturbances to rock the nation of 30 million people.
Looters plundered a truck carrying corn, a food collection center, and a state-run supermarket, according to Paparoni, and a vet who witnessed the mayhem.
A video on social media also showed around a dozen men running into a lush pasture, chasing a cow, and then apparently beating it to death.
"They're hunting. The people are hungry!" says the narrator of the video, who filmed the incident from his car. Lawmaker Paparoni said some 300 animals were believed to have been killed. Reuters could not verify the information.
Zuley Urdaneta, a 50 year-old vet in Merida, witnessed the looting of a truck along the highway around 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. About two hours later, he said some 800 people converged on a food collection center and proceeded to plunder it.
"They knocked down the gates and looted flour, rice, cooking oil, cooking gas," said Urdaneta. "The police and the National Guard tried to control the situation by giving out what was left."
Looting has been increasing in the provinces since Christmas, with food shortages and hyperinflation leaving millions of people hungry, though the capital, Caracas, has so far been largely unaffected.