By Hannah MacDonald, Global Issues Division Head. Image can be found here.
Venezuela’s economy is in an absolute free fall. Felicita Blanco, a veteran crime reporter in Caracas, stated that “since the currency is worth nothing, it makes no sense to rob banks.” Another 58 year old shoemaker located in the dying country is quoted saying, “If they steal your wallet, there’s nothing in it,” with the Washington post capping it off as, “Even criminals are struggling to get by.” The situation in Venezuela is the worst economic crisis in its history, and among the worst in the world since 2014. The question that lingers in the air before us is, what caused this escalating catastrophe?
Background to the Conflict
In April of 2013, Nicolás Maduro was elected president after winning by a thin margin. During his presidency, Venezuela’s economy toppled into a rapid disaster and many Venezuelans blame him and his socialist government for the country’s decline.
Ok, so here’s where it gets a bit confusing. In May of 2018, Maduro was re-elected for a second 6 year term; however, many citizens vocally expressed that the election was not fair, and many opposition candidates had even been barred from running while others had been jailed or had fled the country for fear of being imprisoned. Therefore, his election was not recognized by Venezuela’s National Assembly, and, when such an event happens, the leader of the assembly steps in as acting president for the nation. Juan Guaidó, the president of the Assembly and now supposed acting president, has been calling on protests and for the military to switch their allegiance from Maduro to himself. Many countries are split on which president to give their allegiance to, with the United States and many Latin American countries recognizing President Guaidó, and Russia and China standing by by President Maduro.
However, most of the current anger and blame falls on Maduro and his predecessor President Hugo Chávez, who both tried to implement a socialist government to help the poor and lower classes. While the citizens were primarily on board and frankly eager to try the new economic system, it had devastating effects and has lead to what the country is facing now. One example, as BBC News states, includes when “The socialist policies brought in which aimed to help the poor backfired. Take price controls, for example. They were introduced by President Chávez to make basic goods more affordable to the poor by capping the price of flour, cooking oil and toiletries. But this meant that the few Venezuelan businesses producing these items no longer found it profitable to make them.” This domino effect has resulted in no food, no water, no electricity, no medicine, and a people in complete ruins. In addition to the suffering economy, the duel between presidents has torn the people apart, and with violence increasingly intensifying, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for this country?
What is Happening Now?
Needless to say, Venezuela is still trapped in its economic and political crisis. In reference to its humanitarian crisis, 80 percent of Venezuelan households don’t have sufficient access to food, the International Monetary Fund expects the inflation rate to reach 10 million percent in 2019, and, according to the New York Times, grocery store shelves are bare, hospitals struggle to treat severely malnourished children, and the country’s public health system has collapsed, leaving many without access to lifesaving medicine. Also, according to the United Nations migration agency, the migration of Venezuelans out of the country has reached levels not seen before in modern history.
In this past month, China has sent a plane to relieve the people of Venezuela, and the supplies will be distributed by the agencies designated by President Maduro, and one of the speculated reasons China is backing Maduro is because China is owed vast sums by the Maduro government; the plane was carrying approximately 2 million units of medical equipment, including medicine and surgical medical supplies. However, despite how badly they need it, Maduro refuses to accept aid from countries like the United States, Canada, Germany and the UK, so long as they support Guaidó, who has not managed to gain as much power or control as Maduro has. Moreover, The Washington Post commented, “With soaring hyperinflation, the government can’t print money fast enough to keep up, so many Venezuelans have switched to debit cards — not that they have enough money on them. Suddenly there’s a whole class of people whose pockets are no longer worth picking.” Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much resolution happening within the country, or out of it. With a backdrop of a deepening recession, the political climate is fracturing the country internally, and countries on the outskirts are even fighting each other on who to recognize as Venezuela’s president and how to help the country. Can Venezuela and surrounding countries get this problem under control, or is there an inevitable war brewing in the midst?
What About Us?
Although this issue is raging in another country, it doesn’t mean we as American high school students can ignore what is happening. It is our duty as citizens to be aware of what is happening around the world–so to be more educated and equipped for when we begin to vote. We must continue to pay attention to other countries and not live in a bubble because one of the chief ways to learn is through the success and failures of our neighbors. Moreover, as Christians,
- We pray for our brothers and sisters suffering in Venezuela. We pray that Your spirit will flood their land and bring peace to the people.
- Please instill wisdom upon the leaders and allow Maduro and Guaidó to find the best possible solution for everything that is happening. Let Your Helper restore the land and lift up the economy.
- Father, we know You are the God who can part the seas and speak things into existence. Thank you for being so powerful and sovereign. We ask for Your will to be done and for Venezuela’s outcome to point glory back to You.