Eight Facts About Education in Venezuela
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, located on the northern coast of South America, is well-known for its education system. For many years, Venezuela was the pinnacle of education in the region for decades, but following recent political and economic crises, the education system has suffered greatly. Here are eight facts about education in Venezuela.

8 Facts About Education in Venezuela

  1. The School System: School for all children between ages 6 and 15 is mandatory and free. Under the country’s 1999 constitution, higher education is still free throughout the country, although not many pursue it. The education system shows astonishingly low levels of discrimination on social grounds as well, boasting nearly equal enrollment rates of male and female students.
  2. Higher Education: There are 90 institutions of higher education in Venezuela. Most students come from the wealthiest 20 percent of the population since less-wealthy students may have to get jobs immediately. Universities feature a universal entrance exam that they use to boost enrollments in the millions nationwide. In 2017, only 44,000 enrolled at the University of Carabobo, compared to 56,000 10 years before.
  3. School Attendance: In addition to a drop in college enrollments, many children have dropped out of regular school as well. In 2013, there were only around 254,709 school-age children and adolescents who did not attend the free schools. According to a 2019 UNESCO study, the numbers reached 557,327, which is more than doubled compared to just six years ago. Children and adolescents have poor attendance because there is a lack of water and food at school and at home, and are all side effects of the current economic issues in the country.
  4. Colombia’s Education System: Many of the primary-school-age children not attending Venezuelan schools are instead trekking across the Colombian border to attend classes there. The mass influx of students is placing a strain on Colombia’s education system.
  5. Absence of Teachers: Many teachers are also quitting. As of 2018, the average teacher in Venezuela currently makes the equivalent of $10-30 USD a month, which is below the poverty level. This makes teaching a much less desirable profession, forcing teaching positions to fall to new graduates and other professionals that do not have the qualifications to teach.
  6.  Studying Abroad: The U.S.-Venezualan relations have harmed study abroad prospectives for Venezuelan students. Following the U.S. travel ban that has impacted countries such as Venezuela and Yemen, many students have been unable to obtain student visas to study in the United States. While the ban does not prevent students from applying to institutions in the U.S., it puts their applications under scrutiny, leading many to pursue an education in other countries.
  7. Literacy Rate: On the bright side of these eight facts about education in Venezuela, 97.13 percent of Venezuelans over the age of 15 can read and write. This is the highest literacy rate in the entire region.
  8. Foreign Aid and Nonprofits: As of 2019, Venezuelan President Maduro conceded to requesting foreign aid, which gives countries in the United Nations the ability to help with the economic crisis at large, despite the fact that most of the money will not go to education specifically. Within the country, organizations, such as Cuatro Por Venezuela, provide the aid they can. Cuatro Por Venezuela provided over 480,000 individual meals from 2017 to 2019, and are still doing more.

To conclude these eight facts about education in Venezuela, one should note that the main reason Venezuela’s education system was so successful in the past is because of the amount of resources it dedicated to it. The country has not changed this and combined with the worldwide collective desire to ensure the protection of education as a right, it should have a hopeful future.

– Anna Langlois
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in Venezuela
People have long associated the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela with the autocratic governance of late President Nicolás Maduro and decades of socioeconomic downfall. Gross political corruption persists in Venezuela that constitutional violations show. These began in 2017 and have barred acting president Juan Guaidó from assuming the duties of his office. In September 2019, The UN Human Rights Council dispatched a team to the country to investigate alleged human rights abuses, including state-sanctioned killings, forced disappearances and torture. With this information in mind, here are the top 10 facts about human rights in Venezuela.

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in Venezuela

  1. The Situation: Deteriorating social and economic conditions in Venezuela have incited a refugee crisis in the country. Since 2014, more than four million Venezuelans have fled (a figure which excludes unregistered migrants). Displaced by violence and corruption, Venezuelan migrants struggle to obtain legal residence, food security, education and health care resources in the nations they flee to. These bureaucratic hurdles and unstable living situations force many to return home.
  2. Maduro and Corruption: The dismantling of Venezuela’s National Assembly in March 2017 was the Maduro Administration’s first attempt of many to silence political opposition. The move stripped the opposition-led parliament of its legislating powers and immunity—important checks against potential exploits by the executive branch. Research from Amnesty International confirms that Maduro’s government used torture, unhinged homicides and extrajudicial executions to maintain support in the years following this constitutional scandal.
  3. Protests and Arrests: Nationwide protests and demonstrations began in 2014 in response to human rights violations and a buckling economy. According to the Penal Forum, authorities have arrested more than 12,500 people between the years 2014 and 2018 in connection with protests. Security personnel and government-backed militias often use excessive force—tear gas, firearms, asphyxiation, severe beatings and electroshock, etc.—against protesters and detainees in order to quell resistance efforts.
  4. Censorship: Maduro’s regime has used censorship of mainstream media to control Venezuelan civilians and eliminate its critics. A pervasive fear of reprisal effectively denies Venezuelans their freedom of expression and speech.  During times of global scrutiny, the government has blocked online news broadcasts, VPN access and streaming services to curb bad press and anti-government organizing. The government staged an information blackout in February 2019 in response to a clash between the military and aid convoys at the Colombian border.
  5. Political Bribery: The Venezuelan government has used political bribery to keep Venezuelans compliant. The government has used its monopoly on resources to withhold food and other basic goods from dissenters and reward supporters with the same incentives. In 2016, Maduro launched the government-subsidized food program, Local Food Production and Provision Committees (CLAPS). Through this insidious program, Venezuelans received monthly (oftentimes late or empty) food shares in exchange for having their voting activity tracked.
  6. Human Rights Crisis Denial: In February 2019 Maduro denied claims to the BBC that the country was undergoing a human rights crisis. He has repeatedly used the same rhetoric to reject foreign aid and unassailable evidence of health and welfare shortages in the country, by equating the acceptance of aid with the fall of his regime. That same month, there were disputes over $20 million in U.S. and European aid shipments at the Colombia-Venezuela border.
  7. Venezuela’s Inflation Rate: The International Monetary Fund forecasts Venezuela’s inflation rate will reach 10 million percent in 2019. Food scarcity and hyperinflation have led to millions of cases of malnutrition and premature death, especially amongst children.
  8. Doctors and Hospitals: Twenty thousand registered doctors have left Venezuela between 2012 and 2017 due to poor working conditions and growing infant mortality rates. Hospitals are unhygienic and understaffed, lacking the medicine and medical equipment to accommodate the excess number of patients. Tentative water sources and power outages make most cases inoperable, presenting a liability to doctors and causing untreated patients to become violent.
  9. Death Squads: In June 2019, the UN reported that government-backed death squads killed nearly 7,000 people from 2018 to May 2019. Maduro attempted to legitimize the killings by using the Venezuelan Special Police Force (FAES) to conduct the raids, which he staged through family separation techniques and the illegal planting of contraband and narcotics. Again, Maduro devised this strategy to threaten political opponents and people critical of the Maduro government.
  10. Human Trafficking: A 2016 report conducted by the U.S. Department of State condemned Venezuela’s handling of human trafficking in the country, in both regards to sex trafficking and internal forced labor. Venezuela lacks the infrastructure to properly identify and assist trafficking victims due to governmental corruption and rampant gain violence which facilitates human trafficking and forgoes accountability. Traffickers often trick or coerce Venezuelan migrants into the sex trade. In fact, 10 percent of 1,700 recorded trafficking victims in Peru between 2017 and 2018 were Venezuelan.

The top 10 facts about human rights in Venezuela should read as a call to action. Global aid agencies and national governments are currently working to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuelans and the growing Venezuelan migrant community. While the current political climate complicates internal relief efforts, spreading awareness about the state of human rights in Venezuela is the first step in addressing the crisis.

Cuarto Por Venezuela Foundation is a nonprofit organization conceived in 2016 by four Venezuelan women living in the United States eager to alleviate the situation at home. The Foundation works to create programs and partnerships to deliver comprehensive aid to Venezuelans in need. In 2018, the organization shipped over 63,000 lbs. of medicine, food and school supplies to Venezuela (four times the number of supplies shipped the previous year). Additionally, its health program has served nearly 40,000 patients to date through vaccination and disease prevention services.

– Elena Robidoux
Photo: Flickr

Venezuela's Education System
A number of factors are greatly affecting Venezuela‘s education system. The Venezuelan government has always believed that every citizen has the right to free education. When oil prices drove Venezuela’s economy, so too was its educational system. Venezuela used to rank as one of the highest in education in Latin America until 2010 when it became number six in the region. Now the country is undergoing one of the worst humanitarian crises and it is affecting Venezuela‘s education system.

Economic and Political Collapse

In the 20th century, modernization and urbanization in Venezuela brought many improvements to its educational system. Former President Hugo Chavez used the rise in oil prices to fund the education system, train teachers and fund laptop computers. Now that the gas prices have dramatically fallen, not only has the economy gone down with it, the corruption and mismanagement of the government have also affected the quality of Venezuela’s education system.

High Dropout Rates and Limited Faculty Members

Several students living in Venezuela have missed more than 40 percent of class due to school cancellations, strikes, protests or vacation days. That is equal to missing more than half of their mandatory instruction school days. There has been a “massive desertion of students” in every level of education. Yearly dropout rates have doubled since 2011 and in 2017 about 50 percent of students in three public universities located in Táchira dropped out. About one-fourth of the students do not attend school at all.

Massive numbers of teachers have left their jobs because of their low-wage salary of $6-$30 a month. About 400 employees have quit one of Venezuela’s top science universities, Simon Bolivar University, in the past 2 years. Some teachers dedicate their time to attending strikes and protests in the hopes of changing the education system, which results in them only working 10 days out of the month. Teachers also miss school when they encounter long food lines to feed their families, and some fear that someone will shoot, murder or rob them on campus when they go to work. Robberies in universities have increased by 50 percent in the last three years.

Lack of Food, Water, Electricity and Supplies

“There is only one bathroom for 1,700 children, the lights are broken, there is no water and the school meals are no longer being served,” said a teacher working in one of Venezuela’s middle-class public schools. The scarcity of water, food in cafeterias and electricity has caused schools like Caracas Public High School to close down for weeks at a time. Teachers are even trading passing grades for milk and flour because of the scarcity of food. Students are passing out every day at physical education classes due to their empty stomachs and broken school kitchens.

Budget cuts on school funding are the major reason why schools lack the supplies they need. In 2019, the University of Central Venezuela received only 28 percent of its “requested annual funding.” This is less than the 40 percent it received in 2014 and estimates determine that it will decline to 18 percent next year. These budget cuts result in “broken toilets, leaking ceilings, unlit classrooms and cracked” classroom floors. The education budget now prioritizes Bolivarian Universities due to the fact that they teach 21st-century socialism.

Lack of Intellectual Freedom

About 15 years ago, during former President Hugo Chavez’s presidency, the Bolivarian University of Venezuela opened. This is a higher education institution for underprivileged and poor civilians that are suffering due to Venezuela’s situation. This developed into a new education system the government created that stands by “the ideology of its socialist revolution.” Since the government has taken control over the university’s autonomy, lack of academic thought and intellectual freedom is prevalent. Since private companies now cannot fund universities as of 2010, there have been no new majors approved.

Solutions

Caritas is a nonprofit organization inspired by the Catholic faith and established in 1997. It has a history of listening to the poor talk about what they need and giving them what is necessary to improve their lives. It has seen over 18,890 children and provided 12,000 of them with nutritional care. About 54 percent of those children have recovered from malnutrition and other medical emergencies.

Global Giving is another NGO that has started a foundation called the I Love Venezuela Foundation. This Foundation focuses on creating and channeling resources to NGOs that focus on the “wellbeing, human development, and social transformation” in Venezuela. It also works on raising money in order to buy shoes for low-income families in Venezuela so that they can safely walk to school, play with their friends and be children. Its goal is to reach $10,000 and it has raised about $630 so far.

While Venezuela’s education system has had challenges in recent years, organizations like Caritas and Global Giving should help alleviate some of the burdens that prevent children from attending school. With continued support, Venezuela’s school system should one day reach its height again.

Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

5 Causes of Poverty
Of the population of the world, over 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. This is a staggering number that begs the question, why? What are the causes of global poverty? There is a multitude of reasons as to why poverty devastates countries, but here are the top five causes of global poverty.

5 Causes of Global Poverty

  1. War: A country that goes to war can impact poverty greatly. There are several factors to consider when looking at how war contributes to poverty. There is the destruction of the infrastructure wherever the conflict rages. Fierce fighting can destroy power facilities, buildings and roads and usually take years to rebuild. The disruption of trade can have a devastating impact on the goods that people rely on. The halt to production in factories, growing of crops and work in mines can bring a country’s economy to almost a complete stop. The human cost is the most devastating out of every impact that war can bring. Not only is there the number of dead to consider, but also the number of people fleeing the conflict zones. Large numbers of a country’s workforce are fleeing the conflict zones looking for peace in a different country. Today, 71 million people have been displaced because of war and violence in countries all over the world. Since the creation of organizations such as the United Nations, countries are more willing to talk to each other and keep the peace rather than fight.
  2. Little to No Education: Often, when a country is in poverty, there is very little to no education available for its citizens.  Nearly 1 billion people came into the 21st century not knowing how to write their names or read a book. When a nation lacks in education, they become an untrained workforce for an impoverished nation. Families in these countries often cannot afford to send their children to school, and frequently require them to work to support their families. By the year 2000, it was possible to send every child in the world to school and in order to do that, the world would have only had to spend less than 1 percent of what it does on weapons. However, this obviously did not happen. Even though 1 billion people or 18 percent of the population could not read or write at the start of the century, this statistic is still an improvement from 1980 when the world illiteracy rate was 30 percent.
  3. Corruption: One can blame poverty in a country on the leaders as well as any outside factors. A country with corrupt leadership can have a devastating impact on the well being of its people. Corruption can divert much-needed resources and funds away from those that need them. Every country may have some level of corruption, however, the most poverty-stricken countries often show the most corruption. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Index, out of the 177 nations it ranked, 118 had a score of 50 or less. A score of 100 means that the country is free of corruption. Meanwhile, the least developed nations in the world have a score of 28. Fortunately, many countries are creating offices to hold their leaders accountable. Cuba, for example, has started the Ministry for Auditing and Control that aims to fight corruption within the country.
  4. Inflation: Countries’ economies can fluctuate from extreme highs to lows. Venezuela is a current example of a country going through this type of hardship. The South American country was able to prosper from an economic boom from its oil industry. When that began to regress, the country’s economy began to take a turn for the worse. Inflation ruined the country, making goods almost impossible to afford. There was also a lack of necessary supplies such as food and medicine. The current poverty rate in Venezuela sits at 90 percent out of a population of 32 million. Because of the economic hardship, 4 million people have left Venezuela as refugees. Despite Venezuela’s struggles, there are examples of countries that have faced terrible economic times and turned things around. Norway had one of the worst economies at the turn of the 20th century, but through foreign aid and resources, it is now one of the richest nations in the world.
  5. Natural Disasters: A natural disaster can have an overwhelming impact on a country’s livelihood and the well-being of its people. There is very little that anyone can do to stop natural disasters from happening. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, landslides, volcanic eruptions and tornadoes can destroy areas and leave whole regions to pick up the pieces. Countries that are already in poverty struggle to recover and frequently sink deeper into poverty. According to the World Bank, over 26 million people enter poverty each year because of natural disasters. By the end of 2018, the world lost $225 billion as a result of natural disasters globally. As technology improves, countries become better prepared for natural disasters and have more warning.

No matter what the causes of global poverty are, there is always a solution to fix them. Whether it is through international aid or a change in legislation around the world, people can eliminate those causes, or at the very least, limit the devastation of poverty.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Pixabay

Venezuelan Crisis
For decades Venezuela’s government and economy have struggled significantly. Entering Venezuela into a search engine will generate links to a multitude of foundations attempting to relieve the Venezuelan Crisis. What is the Venezuelan Crisis and how is the U.S. reacting?

The South American country’s history is full of political and social inequity. Venezuelan leadership has been rocky at best since Simon Bolivar led the country to independence more than 200 years ago. Despite his original constitutional implementations of extremely strict rules such as capital punishment for any public officer guilty of stealing 10 pesos or more from the government, the country quickly fell into corruption.

History of Corruption

The disorder apparent in Venezuela’s contemporary governmental and social climates stems from centuries ago when inefficient leadership set the precedent. The country did not institute a democratic election until 1945. That is more than 130 years after its founding and establishment of the civilian government. Turmoil ensued as Marcos Perez Jimenez, a military figure, overthrew the first elected President Romulo Gallegos within eight months. Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabel, in turn, ousted Jiminez and leftist Romulo Betancourt subsequently took power. This period of rapid regime change defined by government instability and disorganization instilled a distrust that still resonates in the hearts of Venezuelans today.

The trend of unreliable leaders continued until the late 1960s and 1970s when a beacon of light emerged. This age saw much-needed transparency in public assets, contrasting with previous leaders who were heavily corrupt. During this time, other South American countries even began to restructure their governments after the Venezuelan model. However, Venezuela lived this era of tranquility for only a short time because of one man: President Jaime Lusinchi.

Lusinchi served as President from 1984 to 1994. Even in the era of Nicolas Maduro, he stands as the epitome of Venezuelan corruption. In his 10 years as the country’s leader, a corrupt security exchange program stole an alleged $36 billion from the government. Additionally, many accused Lusinchi of stealing from the National Horse Racing Institute to promote the campaign of his successor, Carlos Andres Perez.

Venezuela’s economy functions almost solely on oil exports. The volatility of international oil demands, a market characterized by consistent inconsistency, historically parallels with the state of the Venezuelan market. A booming oil stock in an oil-dependent country naturally creates extraordinary temptation, a temptation that Lusinchi gravely fell into.

Making the national situation worse, the money Lusinchi stole from the government came from a temporary oil surge. Therefore, when oil prices normalized, the economy faced a much more difficult catching up than it would have otherwise.

For many Venezuelans, Lusinchi reopened recent wounds concerning government distrust. This fueled a wave of anger that the famous populist Hugo Chavez harnessed. Lower-class Venezuelans blamed government corruption and greed of the elite for the country’s extreme economic and social issues. The support of this large base played an important role in electing Chavez as President in 1998.

Today’s Dictatorship

To understand the current state of affairs under Maduro, it is vital to understand Chavez’s impact on the Venezuelan Crisis. Chavez’s policies raised (and still raise) enormous controversy as he led using traditionally socialist policies. Under these policies, Venezuela saw a 50 percent reduction in poverty and a dramatic reduction in the unemployment rate.

These policies were only achievable because of a 2004 soar in oil prices in the middle of Chavez’s presidency. His excessive spending on categories like food subsidies, education and health care was only possible through this boom. To get the Venezuelan people to reelect him, Chavez did not scale back these programs to match declining oil prices and set up his country to fail.

In 2014 Venezuelan oil prices crashed, leaving the economy in shambles as Chavez’s programs quickly racked up an enormous deficit. This also started the massive inflation of the Venezuelan bolivar that the country still struggles with today. Following Chavez’s death, Nicolas Maduro gained power in 2014, taking on the responsibility for the economy and deficit. Maduro failed to diversify the oil-rigged economy. This caused the petrostate to fall back into extreme poverty, currently wielding a poverty rate of around 90 percent, double what it was in 2014.

The Council on Foreign Relations quotes Venezuela as “the archetype of a failed petrostate,” describing it as a sufferer of the infamous Dutch disease. The transition to this began back in 1976 when then-President, Carlos Andres Perez, nationalized the oil industry creating the state-owned ‘Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). Chavez’s mismanagement of this company led it to render weak profits. Internal issues such as insider business practices and drug-trafficking also littered the business with corruption. Chavez then sanctioned a series of other national businesses and foreign-owned assets tilting the country towards extreme socialism.

This progression of increased nationalization slowly opened the doors for Maduro to initiate authoritative rule. He abused this power in multiple facets which had devastating consequences on the well-being of the country and its people.

Early in his rule, Maduro placed his supporters in the Venezuelan Supreme Court and replaced the National Assembly with his own Constituent Assembly. Through this cunning, undemocratic move, he essentially eliminated all political opposition and erased any check on his power. This allowed him to pass extremely contentious policy such as the abuse of food importation. Because of Maduro’s extremely poor operation of a socialist economy, hyperbolic inflation rates currently plague the country. While the political elites operate on a 10:1 rate, the rest of the country uses around a 12,000:1.

To make matters worse, Maduro delegated food commerce to the military which has access to the significantly decreased exchange rate. To make enormous profits, it buys food at the 10:1 rate and then sells it domestically at a 12:000:1 rate. The 2017 statistic shows that Venezuelans lost an average of 27 pounds, highlighting the horror of Maduro’s corruption.

What is the US’s position in all of this?

As expected, the U.S. with its long history of an anti-socialist stance disapproves greatly of the Maduro suppressive regime. There is historical friction between the two, which emerged again during Chavez’s time in a battle between capitalist and socialist ideals.

After Maduro’s reelection, the Trump administration grew furious and decided to use aid as a tool against the dictator. In an act of defiance against the U.S., Maduro rejected all supplies from the capitalist power. The U.S. decided to use this move to its advantage, pledging to send copious amounts of humanitarian aid and urging Venezuela’s officials to defy their President’s orders.

As Dylan Baddour states in his article for The Atlantic, “Those who support the mission say that soldiers will be motivated by the impact Venezuela’s crisis is having on their families to switch sides and affect a peaceful transfer of power.” However, not everyone supports this mission because of the U.S.’s bittersweet past regarding Latin American intervention.

Citizens in countries like Chile, Nicaragua and Panama certainly are in living memory of times when American involvement only made matters worse. But as Baddour writes, in a situation as dire as Venezuela’s during the Venezuelan Crisis, “the world’s most powerful country showing up at Venezuela’s border with truckloads of food and medicine is much better than what it has done in the past.”

There is, of course, a concern that Venezuela could transform into the next Syria — where the majority of the population suffers because of one belligerent leader. But if the U.S. takes a proper humanitarian route with its aid, unlike previous attempts, it could do more help than harm. Hopefully, Venezuela will accept aid and transfer power peacefully and efficiently to someone that does not endorse such heinous policies. Until then, the U.S. simply providing its current amount of humanitarian aid is a positive step in the right direction to relive some of the effects of the Venezuelan Crisis.

Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr

inflation in Venezuela

Venezuela has been in a decades-long economic crisis. Its economic decline is historically marked by el Viernes Negro or Black Friday. Black Friday took place on February 18, 1983, when the nation’s bolivar began depreciating in value. Inflation in Venezuela has been rising ever since. Recent hyperinflation in Venezuela has caused mass poverty across the nation. The result have been shortages of food and medical supplies and an unemployment rate of 35 percent as of December 2018.

Origins of Depreciation

In order to understand potential ways to alleviate Venezuela’s rising inflation rates, it is essential to understand how the economy reached this point. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, Venezuela was a flourishing oil tycoon in possession of some of the world’s largest oil deposits. A worldwide shortage of oil raised the prices of barrels and created a golden period of economic growth for oil giants like Venezuela. Once the 1980s rolled in, oil prices stabilized. People started looking for more affordable, alternative energy methods.

This was detrimental to Venezuela’s economy since there was less demand for oil. Heightened production due to the previously increased oil prices left Venezuela with an abundance of oil produced and less demand. Venezuela’s reliance on exporting oil became its undoing. The price of oil continued to drop as the years progressed. Venezuelan oil production continued to exceed the actual demand. Inflation in Venezuela began here as the nation struggled to adapt in the face of failing exports.

Worsening Factors

Several factors contributed to the inflation of the Venezuelan bolivar. One factor was increased spending on social welfare programs and the importation of basic goods during Hugo Chávez’s presidency. While these actions helped to alleviate social unrest, this type of spending couldn’t be sustained as the oil-based economy tanked. In 2008, the global price of oil dropped to around $34 dollars per barrel, a record low that severely cut Venezuela’s core income. In 2014, another record low sealed Venezuela’s economic down spiral as the nation could no longer rely on its chief export for a means of financial stability.

However, this did not deter spending on welfare programs and imports, which led the nation into deficit spending. Deficit spending continues to be a major factor in increasing inflation in Venezuela. The further the nation falls into debt, the more the value of the bolivar depreciates. Currently, the full value of Venezuela’s debt is exceeds “the value of its exports” by 738 percent. Because of its massive debt, the U.S. implimented trade restrictions in early 2019. This has further decreased the sales from exports and the nation’s gross revenue.

Currency printing has been another cause of inflation in Venezuela. In order to pay for the importation of basic goods, more money has and is being printed by banks and the government. The value of the bolivar depreciates the more that is printed. It should be kept in mind, however, that these aren’t the only factors in inflation. The situation is deeply complex, spanning over decades of domestic mismanagement and failing international relations.

Qualifications for Hyperinflation

According to Forbes, a nation’s economy reaches hyperinflation once its monthly inflation rate surpasses 50 percent for a full thirty days. Once that inflation rate drops below 50 percent for another full thirty days, it is no longer in hyperinflation. Venezuela has been in a continued episode of inflation with some peaks of hyperinflation since November 2016.

Because of the longevity of Venezuela’s financial crisis, the nation’s economy is considered to be in hyperinflation. According to the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela’s GDP will drop another 25 percent by the end of 2019. The projected inflation rate by the end of 2019 will surpass 10 million percent.

Alleviating Inflation

Despite the economic down spiral in Venezuela, there is a potential solution that is common across business analysts. Forbes and Bloomberg Business both suggest that Venezuela adopts “dollarization.” This means abandoning the domestic currency in favor of foreign currency. Dollarization allows the economy to stabilize as Venezuela could leave behind the bolivar and adapt to an already stable foreign currency.

The reasons for inflation in Venezuela are numerous. There are some solutions out there, but they have yet to be implemented. In this case, adopting the American dollar may be the best approach to curb the rising inflation in Venezuela and reduce the poverty caused by inflation.

Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

The Fall of Venezuela’s Oil-Based Economy
Currently, Venezuela is in an economic crisis. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Venezuela’s inflation rate will exceed 10 million percent by the end of 2019. This high inflation has destroyed Venezuela’s economy, causing poverty and unemployment rates to rise. In turn, it has also created mass food and medical supply shortages across the nation. Venezuela was not always in a state of crisis; it was once a thriving country backed by a booming oil-based economy. If one understands the fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy, they will know how Venezuela’s current crisis came to be.

Fruitful Origins

Back in the 1920s, people found some of the world’s largest deposits of oil in Venezuela. Upon this discovery, Venezuela embarked on the path of a petrostate. As a petrostate, Venezuela’s economy relies almost entirely on oil exports. The government overlooked domestic manufacturing and agriculture, choosing to import basic goods instead of producing them within Venezuela. With strong support for an oil-based economy, Venezuela rode on its economic boom until the end of the worldwide energy crisis of the 1970s.

The 1970s energy crisis involved international oil shortages due to interrupted supplies from the Middle East. In place of the Middle East, Venezuela became one of the top oil suppliers worldwide. Oil prices thus skyrocketed due to limited suppliers and oil production in Venezuela increased to meet rising demand. Venezuela added about $10 billion to its economy during the energy crisis, providing enough wealth to cover the importation of basic goods. It was even able to begin more social welfare programs.

The Fall

Once the energy crisis ended in the early 1980s and oil prices stabilized again, Venezuela’s economy saw its first notable decline. Oil production did not decrease in spite of lowered oil prices and demand, resulting in a capital loss for Venezuela’s economy. The production of oil is an expensive endeavor which requires high capital investment in the hopes of that even higher sales can offset the investment. Therefore, while oil production remained high, Venezuela failed to build off of the investment, losing capital immediately.

This loss of capital marked Venezuela’s oil-based economy’s initial fall, as Venezuela risked its well-being on the unstable oil market. Just prior to the drop in oil prices, Venezuela went into debt from purchasing foreign oil refineries. Without investing in domestic agriculture or manufacturing, the Venezuelan government became economically strapped; it could no longer pay for its imports and programs, and especially not its new refineries.

In order to pay for its expenses, Venezuela had to rely on foreign investors and remaining national bank reserves. Inflation soared as the country drilled itself further into debt. It was not until the early 2000s that oil prices began to rise again and Venezuela could once more become a profitable petrostate — in theory. Under the regime of Hugo Chávez, social welfare programs and suspected embezzlement negated the billions of dollars in revenue from peaked oil exports.

By 2014, when oil prices took another harsh drop worldwide, Venezuela did not reserve enough funds from its brief resurgence of prosperity. Ultimately, the country fell back into a spiral of debt and inflation.

Lasting Effects

The fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy sent shockwaves throughout its population, affecting poverty and unemployment rates and causing mass food and medical shortages. Estimates determined that in April 2019, Venezuela’s poverty rate reached nearly 90 percent nationwide. A notable factor of its widespread poverty, some suggest that Venezuela’s unemployment rate was 44.3 percent at the start of 2019.

Unemployment is rapidly increasing in Venezuela as both domestic and foreign companies lay off workers — with some companies offering buyouts or pension packages, and others just firing workers without warning. As Venezuela falls further into debt and its inflation rises, there is not enough demand within the country for foreign companies to stay there.

As previously mentioned, the earlier Venezuelan government chose to rely on imports rather than domestic production for its basic goods. Now, in 2019, the country suffers from its past mistakes. Unable to afford its imports, food and medical supply shortages are rampant across Venezuela. According to recent United Nations reports, over a 10th of the nation’s population is suffering from malnourishment. In addition, malaria — which the country virtually eliminated several decades prior — is reappearing as there are more than 400,000 cases nationwide.

A Way Out

While the fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy may be detrimental to the nation’s overall stability, there is a way out of ruin: the International Monetary Fund, an international agency that exists to financially aid countries in crisis. In the fight against global poverty, the IMF is a vital tool that can prevent countries from reaching an irreparable state.

If Venezuela defaults on its debt and seeks funding from the IMF, Venezuela would be able to invest in domestic agriculture and other infrastructure. Therefore, if the oil industry continues to decline, there will be a fallback for supplies and potential exports. While this is not a panacea to the fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy, it is a way for the nation to prepare for any future declines in oil prices and begin to work toward prosperity.

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

Fuel Shortage in Venezuela
In 1960, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) established to coordinate and unify policies around the price of oil. This intergovernmental organization consists of 15 nations that produce 44 percent of the world’s oil and own 81.5 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Given the importance of oil in today’s economy, it is reasonable to assume that OPEC members are well-off, especially those with vast oil reserves. However, the fuel shortage in Venezuela proves otherwise.

Fuel Shortages Starve the Country

Venezuela, one of the five OPEC founders, boasts the world’s largest oil reserve. Although this South American country sits on a vast reservoir of mineable liquid gold, there is a fuel shortage in Venezuela that starves it. Due to years of mismanagement and corruption, the oil-rich nation has dried up its gasoline pumps, leaving lines trailing from gas stations that last hours. People can sometimes wait for days to fill their tanks. In the southern and western states of Tachira and Bolivar and the central states of Carabobo and Aragua, people can wait in line for five hours or more. Venezuela has limited power so it rations it; periodic power outages means that people cannot pump gas. However, there are no gas shortages in the country’s capital, Caracas; oil tankers divert into the capital to supply its six million citizens, but also to prevent political unrest around the Parliament.

These fuel shortages and gas station lines are impeding on already troubled Venezuelan lives. The hyperinflation and lack of job opportunities in the country hinder a good quality of life and gas shortages push this even further. Citizens cannot get to their jobs when their cars are empty on fuel or when they are stuck in line to fill up.

However, the fuel shortages in Venezuela are troubling to not only the day-to-day lives of citizens but also the entire agriculture industry that feeds the population. Fuel shortages compound the effect of food insecurity. When there is a shortage of fuel, food cannot make it from farm to market or from city to city. There is no rail system to move food either. Farmers leave harvested produce to rot, simply because the truck that transported vegetables to the market never arrived. On May 20, 2019, the National Federation of Cattle Ranchers in Venezuela issued a public plea to the government citing its difficulty moving cattle across the country.

Delayed shipping dates are not the only way fuel shortage in Venezuela impacts agriculture. Farmers might have nothing to sell because pesticide shipments might not arrive to prevent insects ruining their harvest. Without the shipment of crucial parts, farmers cannot operate basic equipment and without a reliable gas pump, workers cannot take the bus into work. Fuel shortage in Venezuela impacts not only the food but the equipment and the workers necessary to cultivate crops.

Plummeting Oil Production in the World’s Largest Oil Reserve

In the past, Venezuela has provided generous gas subsidies to make fuel almost free. However, the issue of fuel shortage began in 1989, when then-President Perez announced an end to the gas subsidy. The announcement resulted in large riots and since then, the suggestion of increased prices of oil is taboo. Thirty years later and after six years of economic crisis and recession, oil is still cheap, but production has dropped significantly. At the beginning of 2019, PDVSA, the state-owned oil and gas company, produced 1.2 million barrels of oil. On April 2019, this figure dropped down to 830,000. This decrease in production is due to obsolete machinery and under-resourced facilities. Additionally, as of now, only two refineries are in operation.

In addition to the mismanagement and corruption that has caused these plummeting oil production rates and shortages, the Maduro government also blames the corruption of former management of resources and U.S. sanctions. These sanctions prevented the export of specific materials that refine crude oils into usable fuel.

Solutions

Corruption, mismanagement and sanction stand-offs are difficult to address. However, there are many NGOs that operate on a community level and provide for those immediately in need. The Venezuelan Engagement Foundation Group (VEFG) is one of these NGOs with programs that address the effects of the fuel shortage and resulting food insecurity. One of its top missions is to provide nutritional meals to children in need through food programs. This year, its food programs have targeted communities in need, mainly children who are the most impacted demographic regarding food shortages. VEFG’s #FeedAKid campaign guarantees that $1 can give a child one meal a day through community kitchens and school canteens. Currently, VEFG feeds 3,000 children, teenagers and elders in 32 different centers worldwide or 90,000 meals a month.

Venezuela’s position is full of contradictions. As an oil-rich OPEC country with fuel shortages and once the richest country in South America, it is now grappling with hyperinflation, failing job markets and food insecurity. The corruption and mismanagement in government have failed to convert the potential of oil into social welfare. Venezuela has limitless potential in terms of its crude oil reserves ready for refinement. The efforts of NGOs on the local level and change on the national level will refine the crudity of poverty into prosperity.

– Andrew Yang
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Conflict in Venezuela
In January 2019, Nicolás Maduro won the Venezuelan presidential election, bringing him into his second term as president. Citizens and the international community met the election results with protests and backlash, which has only added to the conflict in Venezuela. The National Assembly of Venezuela went so far as to refuse to acknowledge President Maduro as such. Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader and president of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president almost immediately after the announcement of the election results, a declaration that U.S. President Donald Trump and leaders from more than 50 nations support. Russia and China, however, have remained in support of President Maduro.

During his first term as president and beginning in 2013, Maduro has allowed the downfall of the Venezuelan economy. His government, as well as his predecessor, Hugo Chávez’s government, face much of the anger regarding the current state of Venezuela. Continue reading to learn how the conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor in particular.

How Conflict in Venezuela is Affecting the Poor

Maduro’s aim was to continue implementing Chávez’s policies with the goal of aiding the poor. However, with the price and foreign currency controls established, local businesses could not profit and many Venezuelans had to resort to the black market.

Hyperinflation has left prices doubling every two to three weeks on average as of late 2018. Venezuelan citizens from all socio-economic backgroundsbut particularly those from lower-income householdsare now finding it difficult to buy simple necessities like food and toiletries. In 2018, more than three million citizens fled Venezuela as a result of its economic status to go to fellow South American countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. However, nearly half a million Venezuelans combined also fled to the United States and Spain.

Venezuela is currently facing a humanitarian crisis that Maduro refuses to recognize. The opposition that is attempting to force Maduro out of power is simultaneously advocating for international aid. As a result, local charities attempting to provide for the poor are coming under fire from Maduro’s administration, as his government believes anything the opposition forces support is inherently anti-government.

In the northwestern city of Maracaibo, the Catholic Church runs a soup kitchen for impoverished citizens in need of food. It feeds up to 300 people per day, and while it used to provide full meals for the people, it must ration more strictly due to the economic turmoil. Today, the meals look more like a few scoops of rice with eggs and vegetables, and a bottle of milk. While the Church’s service is still incredibly beneficial, it is a stark contrast from the fuller meals it was able to provide just a few years prior.

The political and economic conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor citizens of the country in the sense Maduro’s administration is ostracizing local soup kitchens and charities. A broader problem facing the poor is that because Maduro refuses to address the humanitarian crisis, international organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) are unable to intervene and provide aid.

Project HOPE

There are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are making an effort to help Venezuelans suffering as a result of this crisis. One of the easiest ways they can be of service is by providing aid and relief to citizens who have fled to other countries. Project HOPE is an organization that currently has workers on the ground in Colombia and Ecuador to offer food, medical care and other aid to those escaping the conflict in Venezuela. Project HOPE is also supporting the health care system in Colombia in order to accommodate the displaced Venezuelans there.

The current conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor, but it is also affecting the entire structure of the nation. It is difficult to know what the outcome of this conflict will look like for Venezuelans and for the country as a whole. What is important now is to continue educating people about the ongoing crisis so that they can stay informed. Additionally, donating to Project HOPE and other NGOs working to provide aid to Venezuelans in neighboring countries would be of great help. With that, many Venezuelan citizens will know that people support them and are fighting to see progress.

– Emi Cormier
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Mass Migration Out of Venezuela
Mass migration out of Venezuela has several determinants including high inflation, crime rates, food and health care scarcity and the violation of human rights by government forces. These crises are deteriorating living conditions within this Latin American nation, creating a strong push factor for its citizens. The mass migration out of Venezuela is a phenomenon of desperation and necessity, resulting in millions of Venezuelans fleeing from the struggling nation.

Where are Venezuelans Fleeing to?

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, as of May 2019, over 3.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country. This is around a 10th of the nation’s population. Of these migrants, around 464,000 are asylum-seekers, with the rest acquiring other forms of residency. The majority of these migrants stay in Latin America, while some flee as far as Southern Europe.

In Latin America alone, the highest concentrations of Venezuelan refugees are located as follows:

  1. Columbia: 1.1 million
  2. Peru: 506,000
  3. Chile: 288,000
  4. Ecuador: 221,000
  5. Argentina: 130,000
  6. Brazil: 96,000

Life of Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants

The main goal of these migrants is to secure human rights in other countries. This is due to Venezuela no longer securing these rights within its borders. The United Nations recognized this motivation behind the mass exodus back in an August 2018 report and has since then been pressing Venezuela to address these concerns. As for other countries recognizing this humanitarian crisis, neighboring nations such as Columbia have built temporary refugee camps to house migrant Venezuelans.

Unfortunately, not all migrants receive legal residency in their countries of refuge. While some migrants obtain asylum or temporary legal residencies, some seeking refuge resort to illegal means, leaving them at risk of deportation. Whether illegal or legal, Venezuela migrants all may face potential hardships.

Across the board, people uproot from their homes in Venezuela, leaving behind everything they once had. Venezuelan refugees face unemployment and homelessness, as well as little to no access to basic necessities for survival. Venezuelan refugees are also particularly vulnerable to robbery and human trafficking. This risk amplifies especially as an illegal migrant, as those migrants may resort to contacting gangs in order to enter a region.

Intervention

To combat the potential hardships Venezuelan refugees may face, many organizations are stepping forward to alleviate struggles for migrants. Taking on health services, organizations like Project Hope are continuously reaching out to hospitals packed with refugees, such as those in Cúcuta, Colombia.

Project Hope trains medical teams, provides on-site doctors, supplies essential medicines and treatment care and provides numerous other forms of aid to assist refugee-filled health facilities across Latin America. The International Refugee Committee and UNICEF are other notable organizations providing medical assistance.

Organizations like Global Affairs Canada and the Pan American Development Foundation are helping with housing Venezuelan refugees and building shelters. For instance, shelters exist in Boa Vista, Brazil, and in other areas of great need. Given the sheer magnitude of Venezuelan migrants, proper housing proves to be one of the biggest challenges countries with refugee influx face.

While there are many organizations providing aid to Venezuelan migrants and refugees, one thing is clear: the best way to help these Venezuelan migrants is to help Venezuela as a country. So long as Venezuela is in an economic, political and humanitarian crisis, citizens will continue to flee it. The mass migration out of Venezuela is not an isolated event; it is a symptom of a much bigger problem plaguing Venezuela.

– Suzette Shultz
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