The country of Venezuela is in a state of crisis. People are dying and crime rates have skyrocketed. The country remains on the U.S. no-fly list and Humans Rights Watch list due to the political state in the country and its threat to national security. Severe shortages of medicines, medical supplies, and food have been increasing since 2014, the year after President Chavez passed away. Venezuela used to be rich in oil and was South America’s richest economy. But under the power of Present Nicolás Maduro, inflation has made it difficult to live, causing mass protests in the streets.
Inflation is primarily the cause of these protests, with an estimated 1,500% increase in January 2017. The country also owes approximately $120 billion to foreign creditors and must make payments of $7 billion this year. Critics question why the country hasn’t defaulted to make payments, but defaulting could actually worsen the situation. Today they have $10.5 billion left in foreign reserves after years of government overspending.
To put the rate of inflation into perspective by converting to U.S dollars, a dozen eggs that would typically cost around $3 now cost $102. A $6 pack of condoms now costs $752. Beer is no longer served in Venezuela because they have no means to make their beer; grocery lines can extend for blocks, and shoppers often wait in line for hours only to discover that the shelves are empty. Empty shelves mean there is no more food, which leads people to fight each other for parcels of food.
My family is from and many still live in Caracas, Venezuela, the nation’s capital, where most of the unrest is happening. Due to social tension, this once beautiful city has been named the world’s most murderous city, where residents are more than 100 times more likely to die a violent death than in London, and 25 times more likely than in New York. Crime has worsened, like the economy, and September 2016 was the most violent month in six years with a recorded 474 killings.
In March, a million people protested in the streets of Caracas to demand recall of the government. But corruption and fear of being killed have kept judges and congressmen from openly opposing Maduro’s dictatorship. Venezuela’s independence day was April 19, and instead of celebrating, demonstrators took the streets in what they called the “mother of all protests.” I asked my cousins if they were going to go and they said no
because protests usually end with tear gas, violence, and death. It was reported that a 13 year-old boy was shot in the head by government supporters. He had not planned on joining the demonstration.
For further proof of government corruption and Maduro’s tightening grasp of power, the Supreme Court has taken over functions of the country’s National Assembly. The court is dominated by Maduro loyalists who have announced that magistrates would assume legislative duties. Basically, this means Maduro is now authorized with special powers outside of state emergency clauses.
Now you might be asking, why hasn’t there been any effort from other countries to help? Well, international countries have a difficult time influencing Venezuela’s government because the country’s oil profits have helped maintain its autonomy. The government has rejected offers for humanitarian assistance so as not to indebt Venezuela to other countries. Even the Pope mentioned the people of Venezuela in an Easter Sunday speech that emphasized social peace. The Pope and his secretary of state have been influential in focusing attention on the Venezuelan peoples’ suffering and a need for peace.
The only call to action I have is for people to understand the issue and become informed. Most news outlets don’t cover the protests because they occur almost every day. It’s a national crisis, and the bodies are piling up. My cousins have been robbed at gunpoint while with their small children, the little ones are scared of loud noises because of the all the gunshots they’ve heard. They can’t afford to move because they have little money and are trying to survive. This once beautiful and rich country is on a fast track to collapsing, and is need of a new leader. I pray for peace.