The State of Venezuelan Sex TraffickingThe recent collapse of Venezuela’s economy and political stability has made the headlines of many news outlets. The controversial reelection of President Nicholas Maduro in May 2018 plunged Venezuela back into violent protests and demonstrations. As of June 2019, more than four million people had fled from Venezuela’s deteriorating conditions. In this mass exodus, women and children are especially vulnerable to Venezuelan sex trafficking.

Venezuelan Sex Trafficking

Venezuela’s sex traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Venezuela. More than four million Venezuelans are fleeing from their country, according to the Refugee International’s 2019 field report. The recent influx of Venezuelans fleeing their country presents a new boom in Venezuela’s sex and human trafficking. Neighboring countries, mainly Colombia, Brazil, Tobago, Trinidad and Ecuador, have experience receiving refugees from Venezuela.

What makes the situation especially difficult is the sheer number of refugees who are fleeing from Venezuela. The Brazilian Ministry of Justice reported that there were 2,577 refugee status requests made between 2016 and 2017 for the state of Amazonas. This makes up 12.8 percent of the requests made nationwide.

This increase in the number of people attempting to leave the country makes it hard for many Venezuelan refugees to use the legal pathways. Many Venezuelan refugees utilize illegal means, such as the black market or illegal armed groups, to escape their country.

In June 2019, a story of Venezuelan refugees shipwrecked near Trinidad and Tobago brought the dark underbelly of Venezuelan sex trafficking to light. Traffickers in the first shipwreck included members of the Bolivarian National Guard and a member of Venezuela’s maritime authority. These individuals were arrested after a survivor of the shipwreck spoke out against them.

Survivors of the second shipwreck testified that the traffickers charged $250 and $500 to everyone aboard the boat headed for Trinidad and Tobago. In both cases, captains of the boats concealed the fact that the women and children were headed to Trinidad and Tobago to work as prostitutes. Venezuelan women and children are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking in Colombia and Ecuador, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons report.

Venezuelan Refugees Entering Colombia

Venezuelan sex trafficking is not limited to domestic trafficking. Many Venezuelan female refugees entering Colombia are in danger of sexual exploitation. Since Colombia’s legal requirements to enter the country are very strict, many Venezuelan refugees resort to informal routes and illegal armed groups to enter Colombia. In the Refugee International’s 2019 investigation, many refugees testified that women and girls are forced to pay for their safe passage through sexual services to traffickers.

After entering Colombia through illicit means, Venezuelan refugees must live without any proper identification. As refugees without any identification or means to support themselves, many Venezuelan women turn to street prostitution in order to make ends meet.

The Colombian government is taking steps to register these refugees. Colombia passed Act 985, which created the Interagency Committee for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (ICFTP).  The ICFTP works with 88 anti-trafficking committees, which work with many NGOs to train police, government officials and law officials in identifying victims and providing legal assistance to human trafficking victims. Colombia also plans to grant citizenship to 24,000 undocumented Venezuelan children who were born in the country. Experts believe that this will reduce the reliance of refugees on illicit organizations in order to escape Venezuela.

The Quito Process

In September 2019, multiple Latin American countries came together in the Declaration of Quito on Human Mobility of Venezuelan Citizens. In the declaration, participating countries agreed to bolster cooperation, communication and coordination in collective humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan refugees.

Part of the Quito Process’ goal is to prevent Venezuelan sex trafficking and assist the victims of sex trafficking in Latin America. By streamlining and coordinating documentation required in acquiring legal resident status, the Quito Process makes it easier for participating countries to more effectively assist Venezuelan refugees.

Experts recommend the participating countries further investigate and understand the demographics of Venezuelan refugees. Since many refugees escape to other countries for financial stability, experts recommend that participating countries work to make obtaining a stable job easier.

The Colombian government has been credited for its adherence and furthering of the Quito Process. In March 2019 Colombia fulfilled its commitment to the second Quito conference by allowing Venezuelan refugees to enter Colombia with expired passports. In addition, experts are demanding increased rights for displaced refugees in the hosting countries of the Quito Process.

The crisis in Venezuela is increasing Venezuelan sex trafficking. Venezuelan women and young girls are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking and exploitation. While the current situation is grim, it is clear that South American countries are coming together to remedy the current situation. Through the Quito Process, they are working to assist Venezuelan human trafficking victims and eliminate the sex trafficking of Venezuelan refugees. With these efforts, the international community hopes for a quick end to the Venezuelan crisis.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Music and Poverty
Globally, each culture has a connection to music. Numerous Latin American cultures developed music such as salsa and tango,  energizing types of music with trumpets and bongos. Meanwhile, the Middle East produces songs written in Arabic. This style ranges anywhere from traditional Arabic music filled with violins and percussion instruments to Arabic pop including catchy lyrics set to engaging instrumental tunes. Although different cultures produce different types of music, people often view music as a link between cultures and nations. People often do not put music and poverty together, but the study of music is often beneficial and may allow some the chance to escape the poverty line.

The Link Between Music and Poverty

A study at Northwestern University has proven that music lessons can help alleviate the psychological damages that poverty brings. This study observed how learning to read sheet music affected teenager’s brains, aged 14 and 15. By teaching the children how to read musical scales, Kraus, the leader of the study, believes that the world can decrease the bridge between literacy and low socioeconomic status.

Ways Music Can Lift People Out of Poverty

Studying and playing music has proven to affect more than just literacy skills. Studies have observed that individuals who learn how to play music experience increased self-esteem, they believe that they can achieve things that they never thought possible. Also, by learning and studying new skills, individuals develop a new sense of discipline that they might have been lacking, which, in turn, encourages individuals to try new things, like attending college or developing a career.

Organizations Putting Music to Good Use

  1. Global HeartStrings: Started by Rachel Barton Pine, Global HeartStrings’ goal is to help foster classical musicians in developing countries. To achieve this, Pine provides children in impoverished countries with sheet music, basic supplies and even instruments.

  2. Children International: Based out of Kansas City, Missouri, this organization has developed a program called Music for Development in the Dominican Republic and Colombia. Started in the Dominican Republic in 2014 and Colombia in 2015, the program aims to teach children and teenagers life skills through music. By teaching children music, the organization says that they are giving individuals a road out of poverty, self-confidence and the ability to reject negative influences.

  3. System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela: Started in 2002, this organization focuses on individuals aged 3 through 29, and teaches them how to play and perform with musical instruments. Ran by Nehyda Alas, the organization has benefited around 350,000 individuals who live below the country’s poverty line. In Venezuela, around 70 percent of the country’s 30 million citizens live in extreme poverty. Alas, the organization promotes a healthier and more fulfilled life by providing children with new skills and the discipline to learn them. The United Nations Development Programme supports this program and the program aims to end the country’s extreme poverty and hunger crisis.

  4. El Sistema: Founded in Venezuela in 1975 by José Antonio Abreu, people have credited this music-education program with helping individuals rise above the poverty line. It is a cultural, educational and social program that helps empower children and teenagers through music. The organization has opened music learning centers in areas that are easily accessible to children living in poverty. At these centers, children work on learning how to play instruments or learning and performing choral music. Abreu believes that by teaching children music, they not only learn how to read and play music, but they also develop positive self-esteem, mutual respect and cooperating skills. They can then apply these skills to their daily lives. He is a believer in the link between music and poverty and strives to help his students achieve their best.

Musicians Who Came from Poverty

  1. Pedrito Martinez, Edgar Pantoja-Aleman, Jhair Sala and Sebastian Natal — Cuban Jazz Group: People know this Cuban jazz group for its unique blending of Yoruba folkloric music, contemporary beats, piano, bongos and traditional Cuban music. Cuba is one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere, and Martinez and Pantoja-Aleman are the only two members of the four-member band that grew up in impoverished areas of the country. Sala is from Peru and grew up in New York City, while Natal is from Uruguay. All four members of the group grew up struggling to make ends meet and they credit music as being both their escape and their success.

  2. Eddie Adams — American Cellist: Adams and his family, his mother and five siblings, lived in a Virginia homeless shelter when he signed up for band class in 10th grade. Although cello was not his first choice of an instrument, Adams grew to enjoy playing and would watch YouTube videos at school to improve his skills. He did not own his own cello, nor could he afford to take formal music lessons. However, after his audition, Adams received a full-tuition scholarship to George Mason University in Virginia where he became the lead cellist.

  3. Rachel Barton Pine — American Violinist: Growing up, Pine lived in a single-income household and, in her own words, her family was always “one missed payment from losing the roof over our heads.” Pine’s family could not afford a house with central heating or cooling. As a result, in order to stay warm in the winter, they used a space heater that they rotated every 10 minutes to keep their house warm. Pine worked her way above the poverty line by playing various shows as often as she could. She started playing as young as 5 years old, and as of today, she travels around the world performing her music and people have regarded her as “one of the most accomplished violinists in the world.”

Music and poverty intertwine more than many have originally thought. Music can greatly benefit individuals living below the poverty line as it provides a sense of culture, a form of education and a means of creative expression. Impoverished individuals who study music greatly benefit from increased literacy skills, along with increased self-esteem and a willingness to learn and develop new skills.

Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

Health Crisis in Venezuela

The extreme shortage of medicine and medical supplies in Venezuela has forced many people to seek refuge in neighboring countries in the hopes of getting the medical care that they need. More than three million Venezuelans have fled the country and the number continues to rise. With the continued lack of aid and action from the government, Venezuela’s health crisis shows no signs of disappearing. These are six facts about the health crisis in Venezuela.

6 Facts About the Health Care Crisis in Venezuela

  1. Because of the lack of available vaccinations, preventable diseases such as measles and diphtheria are spreading throughout the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that diphtheria had not been reported in Venezuela for 24 years until 2016. Measles had not been seen since 2007. Unfortunately, these diseases are once again affecting the citizens of Venezuela. As of 2018, there have been 2,170 suspected cases of diphtheria with 1,249 being confirmed. There have been reports of 287 deaths due to this preventable disease. Out of the 7,524 cases of measles that had been suspected between 2017 and 2018, 6,252 were confirmed. At least 75 people have died from measles as of 2019. The toll of these diseases could have been prevented if the people of Venezuela had the vaccinations that they needed.
  2. In 2018, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Venezuelan Ministry of Health noted that new cases of HIV had increased by 24 percent. Between 2010 and 2016, deaths due to AIDS increased by 38 percent. In addition, around “87 percent of the 79,000 registered individuals living with HIV” do have antiretroviral treatment because of the shortage of medicine in the country.
  3. Cases of malaria have increased by 76 percent. There were 240,613 reported cases of malaria in 2016 in Venezuela. In 2017, that number increased to 406,000 cases, the largest increase worldwide. WHO estimated 280 deaths due to the disease in 2016. Venezuelans fleeing the country to Colombia and Brazil are taking the disease with them and escalating the spread. The United Nations agency is urging those countries who are hosting Venezuelan refugees “to provide free screening and treatment regardless of their legal status to avoid further spread.” Because so many Venezuelans are fleeing, these diseases are reaching neighboring countries as well. The re-introduction of measles in Manaus, Brazil resulted in 1,631 cases as of November 2018.
  4. Expecting mothers are unable to receive the prenatal medication they need. Many are forced to have unsafe labors. According to a 2017 report by the Venezuelan Ministry of Health, infant mortality has increased by 30 percent and maternal mortality has increased by 65 percent.
  5. Although these neighboring countries are trying their best to provide aid to the people of Venezuela, their healthcare systems are also taking a toll. Many HIV-positive immigrants have reached Brazil only to find that local hospitals were already overwhelmed with AIDS patients dying from infection. Colombia is currently hosting the largest number of Venezuelan immigrants with an estimated one million as of November 2018. Public hospitals are struggling to accommodate refugee health care needs such as vaccinations and emergency services.
  6. The current government of Venezuela has not publicly recognized the crisis among its people, and therefore they are not allowing international relief agencies to enter the country. In Colombia, a huge supply of medicine and supplies from the United States waits to cross the border. Unfortunately, the current president of Venezuela won’t allow the supplies into the country. Colombia has organized many events to help raise money to aid their Venezuelan neighbors. A relief concert called Venezuela Aid Live was held in Colombia on February 22, 2019, to support and bring awareness to the crisis in Venezuela. In four days, the organization was able to raise almost $2.4 million. They plan to do the same next year to continue bringing awareness and aid to the people of Venezuela.

Despite Colombia’s struggle to accommodate refugees, the country is providing limited healthcare to Venezuelans who desperately need it. “In May 2017, the Colombian government declared that all public hospitals must provide free emergency” treatment for Venezuelan patients, which includes treatments for malaria and measles. Between 2017 and 2019, 29,000 pregnant women were able to safely deliver their babies in Colombia free of charge. This also means that their children will be getting free vaccinations plus a promise of healthcare due to their Colombia citizenship. Since 2017, Colombia has provided healthcare services to 340,000 Venezuelan immigrants.

Venezuela’s government officials still have a lot of work to do to help its own people, but thanks to countries like Colombia and Brazil, Venezuelans seeking medical treatment are able to get some assistance. Providing this healthcare, although straining, has made a difference to the three million Venezuelans who had no choice but to flee their country. Through this continued support and care, at least some of the health crisis in Venezuela can be alleviated.

Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Flickr

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

Venezuela's Failing Economy
People know Venezuela as one of the most diverse environments in the world because of its natural features, landscape and wide range of wildlife. Venezuela has massive oil reserves and ranks in the top list among countries such as Saudia Arabia, Canada and Iran, making it the most urban country in Latin America. However, in only approximately six years, the country has seen a drastic economic decline. Venezuela’s failing economy has placed the country in headlines across the world. This article will highlight a few casualties resulting from Venezuela’s financial crisis, as well as evaluating its causes.

The Impacts of Venezuela’s Economic Crisis

The extended effects of Venezuela’s economic crisis are hitting those who choose to remain in the country the hardest. Venezuela’s failing economy has led to a severe shortage and rationing of resources, including food, water and electricity. Despite the country being oil-rich, many Venezuelan’s are questioning why they are struggling. “It’s so unfair; we are such a rich country. It’s not fair that this is happening,” Jakeline Moncada told the Washington Post.

Many turn to natural water reserves despite safety concerns as these reserves often come from sewage drains leading to the spread of preventable diseases. Meanwhile, frequent power outages have caused water sanitation facilities to cease proper function. Physicians have noticed an increase in illness that commonly results from contaminated water and food, such as amoebiasis.

Estimates determine that more than 60,000 Venezuelans who started treatment for HIV now lack access to antiretroviral medications as a result of Venezuela’s failing economy. Many Venezuelan’s that could afford medical services before, now experience challenges attempting to access medical and health services. As a result, those dependent on medications must make costly trips to neighboring countries or hope to find donated medicines from organizations outside of the government.

As Venezuela’s economy has drastically decreased, a survey that the country’s top universities conducted estimated that more than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. As the country experiences hyperinflation of 1.7 million percent, many families cannot afford to feed themselves more than one meal a day. Various organizations have ceased publishing the statistics of the country after specific data showed significant negative changes. For example, The Health Ministry stopped reporting data in 2017 after reports indicated a high rise in infant mortality rates. After the inflation rates suddenly rose, Venezuela’s central Bank discontinued publishing its figures in 2016. In this instance, Venezuelan organizations stopped sharing information once the statistics showed unfavorable characteristics.

Accessibility

Venezuela’s failing economy has led to difficulty accessing resources like medicare, and as a result, nearly 10 percent of the Venezuelan population is emigrating to other countries. Although Venezuelans are having a few problems getting out of the country, there has been a more significant challenge getting resources in. The military has restricted many resources from passing through its borders or at least the areas where they have the right to. The Pemón community, which borders along Brazil, has spoken in support of permitting assistance through its territory. This region, known as La Gran Sabana, also contains the only paved crossing between the two countries.

When Nicolás Maduro became president in 2015, many nations did not consider him the country’s leader but rather Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader. As a result, Maduro severed the remaining diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the U.S. as well as ceasing the accessibility of aid into Venezuela. Maduro has resisted outside assistance, describing the efforts as the United States desiring to meddle in Latin American affairs. However, many believe that the sudden decline results from mismanagement of funds and corruption.

Venezuela has several countries willing to provide support as it endures this period of financial difficulty. It will only receive this aid if its government allows, though, as it regulates the resources that pass through its border. Once nations can establish a common interest and agree on how to address the issue, Venezuela’s reconciliation can begin.

Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr