CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The people waiting for hours in front of the drugstore were dazed with heat and boredom when the gunmen arrived.
The robbers demanded a cellphone from a 25-year-old in black shorts. Instead of handing it over, Junior Perez took off toward the entrance to the pharmacy. Eight shots rang out, and he fell face down.
The dozens of shoppers in line were unmoved. They held their places as the gunmen went through Perez's pockets. They watched as thick ribbons of blood ran from the young man's head into the grooves of the tiled walkway. And when their turns came, each bought the two tubes of rationed toothpaste they were allowed.
As Venezuela's lines have grown longer and more dangerous, they have become not only the stage for everyday life, but a backdrop to death. More than two dozen people have been killed in line in the past 12 months, including a 4-year-old girl caught in gang crossfire. An 80-year-old woman was crushed to death when an orderly line of shoppers suddenly turned into a mob of looters — an increasingly common occurrence as Venezuela runs out of just about everything.
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