Venezuela Crisis

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More stories from Kieran Petrosky

So Long, Partner?
May 20, 2019

Children starving, people scavenging through garbage bins, millions fleeing to other countries – Venezuela has become a nation full of chaos, suffering, and poverty in the last several years. Hyperinflation has killed the economy; inflation rate has reached to over 2 million percent in February of this year. Some Venezuelans are even farming for in game items in video games, such as “Runescape”, to sell for real money – making more money than a salaried worker. The economy is in a much more severe state than the United States’ economy was during The Great Depression.

Venezuela, once a flourishing country in South America, underwent many changes ever since Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998, who transformed Venezuela into a socialist country. In 2003, after a labor strike at PDVSA, the state-owned oil company (Venezuela heavily relies on oil for exports), the economy was crippled. Chávez introduced many measures to fix some of the damage and to seek revenge. These included import controls for the government, nationalization (state ownership) of other industries, and subsidies of food and consumer goods in Venezuela.

After his death in 2013, the presidency went to Nicolás Maduro, who also is a socialist. When the price of oil collapsed in 2014, Venezuela’s economy took a major hit – more significant than the previous collapse. Lower oil prices meant less money being brought in through oil exports. The government had less money to bring in imports, which is how Venezuela got a lot of their food and consumer goods. This was because the government added price controls to product, so production of these goods went down (producers didn’t want to produce goods because they couldn’t set their own prices). This resulted in a major shortage of necessities and other goods in Venezuela.

The crisis has been worsening every day in Venezuela. Store shelves that once held food and other necessities are now vacant. The food that is available is too expensive for people to afford because of the mass inflation.The country’s minimum wage, around $6/month, is barely enough to buy one tray of eggs. Venezuelans rely on trash in order to stay alive and feed their families. Others are desperately trying to escape the hardships and poverty in Venezuela by fleeing to other nations, mainly Columbia. Venezuela’s public transportation, communications, and water services have also been crippled. All fingers are being pointed to Maduro, and some are challenging his rule.

Maduro formed a National Constituent Assembly in 2017 – an assembly that is formed to rewrite the nation’s constitution. He was then re-elected in 2018 in an election many called rigged and unfair. Opposing candidates were either jailed, barred from running for election, or had fled in fear of their lives. Others claim the results were even skewed. Now, after being re-elected and likely in the process of changing the constitution to help keep his power, others are beginning to stand up against him.

Juan Guaidó, President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, declared that the election results were illegitimate and that he would serve as the interim president of Venezuela in January of 2019. Over 50 governments since have recognized him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, including the United States. With large masses of Venezuelans protesting in the streets and many nations condemning Maduro and supporting Guaidó, it seems that a collapse of Maduro’s reign is inevitable.

However, Maduro and his loyalists desperately trying to hold onto power and eliminate his opposition. Justice Maikel Moreno, head of Venezuela Supreme Court, ordered the Constituent Assembly to strip Juan Guaidó of his immunity, which they did a day later. Guaidó’s parliamentary immunity prevented him from being arrested. Now, the Maduro opposition worries that their leader could get arrested or be kidnapped. Guaidó, however, insisted that he would continue to fight Maduro’s rule despite risking his life.

So, how does Venezuela get on its feet again? Mark Ludlow, a teacher at Pennridge High School, says the only way to fix Venezuela is for the “government to meet the wills of the people”. He also emphasized that a lot of it is because they are essentially under a dictatorship because of corruption. Ludlow visited Columbia and had an opportunity to witness poverty there, and said that many Venezuelans’ situations are “very comparable” to the poor in Columbia. Adam Tatar, also a Pennridge High School teacher, believes “socialism is to blame” for Venezuela’s economic crisis. He also states that part of the problem is “many Americans aren’t aware of what is going on in Venezuela”, so less is being done about it. His solution is for Venezuela to find resources that can be exported by Venezuela and create jobs, and that it would be a “step-by-step process”.

As of now, however, it seems like no solution is going to be reached in the near future. Tensions are simply getting worse. Maduro is more focused on keeping his own power rather than fixing the country. Until Maduro’s reign collapses, or until a foreign nation potentially intervenes, it is likely Venezuela will continue to be stuck in their economic and humanitarian crisis.