Poverty in Venezuela
A 2021 study found that three in four Venezuelans are living in extreme poverty. With the rise in inflation along with the political climate of the country, many Venezuelans had to flee the country. Inadequate living conditions and the authoritarian style of government have exacerbated poverty in Venezuela.

Extreme Poverty

Food insecurity significantly increased in Venezuela following the COVID-19 virus. In 2021, 88.2% of Venezuelan homes were worried about not having enough food to eat. With prices rising as the country tries to recover from the economic downfall due to the pandemic, citizens are unable to afford basic necessities. Inflation, along with the absence of available jobs, has made it nearly impossible for individuals to overcome the rising poverty rates.

Political Climate

Venezuela is currently under the rule of Nicolas Maduro, who many people view as a dictator. Maduro leads a corrupt government that has led to a disruption 0f peace. The Venezuelan president does not have public approval and neighboring countries, including the U.S. do not recognize him as a president. Despite this, a military unit that uses force to maintain control supports and backs Maduro. Through mass incarceration and corruption, Maduro has instilled fear in Venezuelans that has enabled him to continue leading the country. During 10-year Maduro’s presidency, the country has fallen into its worst economic decline. To improve the economic crisis, Maduro has set price controls that have led to a decline in available goods, further increasing poverty in Venezuela.

The Good News

A foundation that is contributing greatly to improving the lives of Venezuelans is Cuatro Por Venezuela. The name translates to “four for Venezuela,” as four women, Gloria Mattiuzzi, Gabriela Rondón, Maria Elena Teixeira and Carolina Febres, founded the organization. Cuatro Por Venezuela originated in October 2018 as these women wanted to positively impact poverty in the nation. With the goal of improving healthcare and nutrition, Cuatro Por Venezuela’s nutrition program is a great relief to struggling families. The program fills food pantries with goods as well as partners with schools and orphanages to ensure children are not hungry. Cuatro Por Venezuela also aids families who have lost their jobs and are struggling financially. By establishing micro businesses, Cuatro Por Venezuela is enabling individuals to establish a form of income. From 2017 to 2022, Cuatro Por Venezuela has been able to provide 116 tons of humanitarian aid to Venezuela.

Organizations such as Cuatro Por Venezuela have contributed to the progress in Venezuela’s poverty. Since 2021, the number of individuals living in poverty has reduced by 14.7%. The economic recovery has allowed more families to be able to afford food and housing. Venezuela’s GDP has also increased by 36.03% from 2020 to 2022. Further economic improvements could lead to an even more significant decrease in overall poverty within the country.

– Micaela Carrillo
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Venezuela
Corruption is one of the leading contributors to poverty around the world. In Latin America, one of the most notorious examples of this dynamic is Venezuela. Ranking at a bleak 14 out of 100 by the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index – a rank of zero means highly corrupt and 100 means very clean – Venezuela’s notorious misconduct disproportionately impacts the nation’s poor.

The Relationship Between Corruption and Poverty

Corruption interferes with various key objectives of a functional government, such as the “allocation of resources, stabilization of the economy, and redistribution of income.” These objectives influence poverty both directly and indirectly.

According to a study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), high levels of corruption reduce “economic growth, the progressivity of the tax system, the level and effectiveness of social spending, and the formation of human capital.” This ineffective distribution of wealth results in inequalities in almost all sectors. From education to asset ownership, these ramifications are affecting corrupt nations in all stages of economic development, regardless of their growth experience.

Furthermore, poverty and corruption are interdependent forces: “poverty invites corruption, while corruption deepens poverty.” Corruption is not only a cause of poverty, it prospers in it. Weak political, economic and social institutions allow for the easy exploitation of these systems.

Poor families and economically challenged businesses have few options, particularly when corruption infiltrates all levels of authority. Even small-scale extortion, like roadblocks on farming transport routes or threats of arrest to secure bribes, ensure that the poor stay poor. What is more, in highly corrupt countries, low-level officials often find themselves underpaid, and sometimes beholden to payments to higher authorities. “In such settings, bribery, extortion and theft become matters of survival.”

Corruption in Venezuela

In Venezuela, one can see the consequences of corruption everywhere and has been prominent for years, through various leaders. In 2015, Transparency International released some of its findings concerning the nation’s corruption and subsequent human rights violations.

One investigation uncovered that a state-owned company that imported powdered milk was illegally smuggling it into Colombia, despite a nationwide powdered milk shortage of more than 90%. Both the Venezuelan and Colombian militaries and customs authorities were complicit in smuggling efforts. This powdered milk was to go to underprivileged schoolchildren.

In 2005, the Venezuelan Supreme Court invested about $12 million in the land to build a complex of nearly 300 courts in a ‘Judicial City.’ A decade later, Venezuela has not built any courthouses, and no one has been charged or prosecuted. With millions of dollars gone and nothing to show for it, many wondered where those funds went.

A few years later, $2.24 billion went toward the purchase of more than 1 million tons of food, spearheaded by Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), a state-owned oil and natural gas company that had recently taken over a program that ensures sufficient food to Venezuelans. However, reports show that little more than 25% of the food was received, and of that, “only 14% of the food was distributed to those in need.” While there were calls for investigations, no investigations occurred.

Poverty in Venezuela

Criticism of the conduct of Venezuela’s government has only worsened under the leadership of Nicolás Madura, who has been President since 2013. The 2019-2020 National Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI) published research detailing the deteriorating conditions of basic infrastructure, education and the labor market since 2014.

In 2020, the United Nations estimated that 25% of the total population (roughly 7 million Venezuelans) were in dire need of humanitarian assistance in the same year that ENCOVI reported that a staggering 96% of the population lived under the poverty line. Access to water and electricity is consistently declining, and reports are now showing that roughly 90% of the population is without reliable electricity.

Unemployment under Maduro’s regime has skyrocketed, leaving many that worked in the formal sector to turn to alternative sources of income, which has been shown to correspond with a “steep rise in poverty in the country.” What is more, School attendance across the nation has dropped from 12.7 million children to 11 million, as children in impoverished families often opt for work instead of school, only furthering the cycle of poverty.


While corruption in Venezuela is not new, the country has taken some steps to hold officials accountable and counter the effects of corruption on the nation’s poor. Organizations have rallied in an effort to combat corruption around the globe, through initiatives like the Summit for Democracy and USAID’s Combating Transnational Corruption Grand Challenge. It has become clear that interagency and international cooperation are necessary to make the biggest difference.

The Executive Director of Transparencia Venezuela, Mercedes De Freitas, has called for all people to “take responsibility, denounce corruption and demand accountability.” She emphasized that silence allows the corrupt to continue to evade justice, and “only by victims and witnesses denouncing corrupt acts and individuals, is there a chance for…things to change for the better in Venezuela.” 

– Carly Ryan Brister
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Plan Bolivar 2000
Venezuela is facing a grave humanitarian emergency, with the National Survey of Living Conditions finding that about three-quarters of the population live in extreme poverty in 2021. Unemployment is spreading, public services and basic supplies are scant and hyperinflation is lingering. Critics blame President Nicolás Maduro for driving Venezuela’s once-promising oil-led economy to a failed petro-state. On top of economic mismanagement, Maduro’s government oversees “brutal policing practices,” jailed political opponents and “poor prison conditions,” giving way to an escalating refugee crisis with around 5.5 million Venezuelans fleeing the country since 2014, according to data from October 2020. The circumstances today are a far cry from about 20 years ago when the government aimed to reduce poverty in Venezuela through a project called Plan Bolivar 2000. Though the project came to a premature end, the lessons from Plan Bolivar 2000 can guide future poverty reduction programs in Venezuela.

Plan Bolivar 2000

Launched in February 1999, newly-elected president Hugo Chavez developed Plan Bolivar as part of a mission to engage the national military in anti-poverty activities and pull the country out of the recession. Plan Bolivar included efforts from the Air Force to provide free travel to those urgently in need while the Navy helped to fix refrigerators and established fishing cooperatives. The National Guard engaged in policing and constructing homes for the impoverished and soldiers gave mass vaccinations and food distributions. Literacy programs also formed part of Plan Bolivar 2000.

Plan Bolivar 2000 saw success in its first year — the program’s efforts led to the reparation of “thousands of schools, hospitals, clinics, homes, churches and parks.” More than 2 million disadvantaged people “received medical treatment” and more than 2 million children received crucial vaccinations, among other successes, Venezuelanalysis.com said. The Venezuelan government also reported increases in literacy.

The Flaws in the Plan

The program placed a significant amount of money in the hands of the military. Chavez’s $114 million fund for Plan Bolivar 2000 gave officials a newfound sense of power — In 2018, Venezuelan officials arrested General Victor Cruz Weffer, the army commander overseeing the program, on charges of illicit enrichment through offshore accounts.

Chavez canceled Plan Bolivar in 2002, intending to divert money away from the military and toward “allies in mayoral and state offices.” This spurred a small group of high-ranking military officers to briefly arrest Chavez, who, upon release, “purged the [military’s] top ranks” and diluted the power of the Defense Ministry.

Chavez filled the Ministry with officials who supported his leftist ideals and gave them access to cabinet posts as well as control of banks. He also forced military officials to pledge allegiance to him, appointed numerous “military officials to helm agencies” across the country and named countless “new flag officers” – a practice that his successor Maduro continued after taking power in 2013. According to Venezuelan NGO Citizen Control, by 2017, “active and former military figures had held as many as half of Maduro’s 32 cabinet posts.”

Lasting Effects

These actions confused the military hierarchy and created a “jumbled and partisan chain of command,” according to a Reuters investigation. Top officials spend more time pleasing the Socialist Party and commanding troops through civic duties than they do organizing military affairs.

With intelligence agents embedded in the military, many officers fear speaking out against Maduro and the possibility of facing arrest. This, paired with the high pay and power positions that top officials receive, means that the military’s loyalty to Maduro is strong and unfading.

Armed forces make up a significant part of Maduro’s support, with many officers doubling as ministers or holding other influential positions in his government. Despite his economic mismanagement and human rights violations, which led to “more than 20 countries [recognizing] opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president” by January 2019, Maduro remains in power.

Humanitarian Efforts to Help Venezuela

World Vision is assisting Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, through its Hope Without Borders project. Refugees receive food, shelter, medicine and hygiene kits as well as psychological assistance through child-friendly spaces. As of June 2021, World Vision had provided assistance to more than 71,000 Venezuelan refugees.

Key Takeaways From the Plan

Due to years of corruption and military bloating, Plan Bolivar 2000 failed. However, its early years saw numerous successes across the country, with the military standing as a force for good in providing education, housing and health care to those in need. As Venezuela suffers now more than ever, it can consider Plan Bolivar’s success, as well as the reasons for its failure, as a lesson to inform future poverty alleviation programs.

– Imogen Scott
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Neglected Venezuelan Children
Due to hyperinflation and political instability, Venezuela is facing a humanitarian crisis that has pushed thousands of citizens to flee the country in search of refuge elsewhere. According to the National Survey of Living Conditions (Encovi), 76.6% of Venezuelans endured extreme poverty in 2021. Venezuelan children face the disproportionate impacts of extreme impoverishment as their basic needs go unfulfilled. Hogar Bambi Venezuela prioritizes the well-being of neglected Venezuelan children amid the chaos and instability.

Hogar Bambi Venezuela

Founded in 1992, Hogar Bambi “provides shelter, protection and comprehensive care” to neglected Venezuelan children up to 18 years old “who have been orphaned, abandoned or otherwise deprived of family nurturing,” according to its donation page on GlobalGiving. By ensuring “shelter, food, education, health care and emotional support,” the organization hopes to meet children’s physical, emotional, social and educational needs to ensure proper development and establish the foundation for a brighter future in adulthood. This support can be for the entirety of one’s childhood or can conclude through reunification with biological families and/or foster family placement.

A Trade Program for Teenagers

One of the many programs that Hogar Bambi offers in its assistance for neglected Venezuelan children is a trade school for its teenage members. Recognizing that many of the organization’s teenagers, upon reaching the age of 18, were leaving the organization’s care without the necessary skills to live an independent life and earn an income to support themselves, Hogar Bambi felt it necessary to sculpt these individuals into meaningful contributors within their industries of interest.

As such, from the age of 15, the organization assesses children’s interests and skills and places them into a course to develop these skills so that the children can enter an income-generating trade once leaving Hogar Bambi. A 17-year-old Hogar Bambi teenager completed a “manicurist and pattern designer course” in August 2022, and by February 2023, will attain a high school diploma. Additionally, a young man who displayed an interest in patisserie took a pastry course and has been working at a pastry shop for more than 12 months now.

This career-oriented service relies on collaborations with companies. Real Estate Securities Fund, for instance, offered office tours and trade-specific training to teenagers within Hogar Bambi’s trade program and Izcaragua Country Club “teaches trades related to maintenance and club management.”

Change in Perspective

Coming into Hogar Bambi’s care, past experiences and trauma weigh many of the children down, and consequently, some children view their futures in a pessimistic light. Through Hogar Bambi’s assistance for neglected Venzulean children, however, children develop can-do attitudes and are guided to move toward thoughts of empowerment. Enderson Matos, the operative director of Hogar Bambi Venezuela, said in an interview with Sarah Begum that Hogar Bambi’s environment makes it so that the kids in their care “[think] beyond a simple problem such as ‘I was abandoned by mom’ toward ‘I can create many new things.’”

Support in Numbers

Last year, a Hogar Bambi fundraiser in Florida raised upward of 80 boxes worth of aid, which consisted of various necessities like food, clothes, school supplies, diapers and toys. Other initiatives, like the Baby Formulas Campaign, established in 2017, have equally impressive results. The campaign, which monthly sponsors financed, had delivered more than 1,100 kilos of formula and milk to Venezuela by 2020.

Foster Family Placement

Through a foster family placement program, Hogar Bambi seeks to assist neglected Venezuelan children in the form of familial care. Children with no possibility of reuniting with their families are eligible for the program. A “group of professionals” manage all the necessary protocols and assessments required by law. Prospective foster families should be able to offer the “love, care and dedication that every human being deserves,” the organization says on its website. Hogar Bambi is currently fundraising to secure finances to launch the program and has so far met 25% of its US $25,000 goal.

Hogar Bambi aims to fulfill the comprehensive needs of children so that they may have a promising future. The organization’s assistance for neglected Venezuelan children ensures children can one day become well-rounded, self-sufficient and productive adults.

– Jacob Lawhern 
Photo: Flickr

Curbing Inflation in VenezuelaInflation is one of the most significant problems in the world right now, as the global inflation rate rises to 6.7% in 2022, almost double the average of the last decade. This is a consequence of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Venezuela, which is one of the most in-need countries in South America has finally come out of one of the longest bouts of hyperinflation in the world after 12 consecutive months of the inflation rate rising below 50%, however, three in four people in the country still lived below the poverty line in 2021. The United States and other major players can still do a lot to help the country and curbing inflation in Venezuela is one of the many solutions necessary to improve poverty and economic stability in the country.

Mounting Challenges in Venezuela

In 2016, Venezuela entered a streak of hyperinflation which is when the rate of inflation increases by more than 50% for 12 consecutive months. In 2022, Venezuela has been able to pull itself out of this downward slide pretty simply. The country ramped up printing money in 2016, which became a real issue at the end of 2017 and caused the recent inflation. This has even been a problem in the United States because innately the more currency circulating, the less each piece of currency will be worth. That, along with deficit spending created one of the worst inflation crises in the world.

The solution to this problem appeared to be just as simple as the cause because as soon as the central government of Venezuela decided to stop printing so much money, the inflation rate eased. Although inflation has been on the decline, poverty has still been on the uptick rising to 76% in 2020. Even though these two statistics would seem to be contradictory there are reasons why simply curbing the inflation in Venezuela is not the end all be all.


Curbing inflation in Venezuela is only the first step in a long line in order to help the situation in the country. In June 2022, the U.S. announced more than $314 million in aid to help stabilize Venezuela and the rest of that South American region.

These funds will go to multiple countries and aim to improve education and provide COVID-19 relief along with aid for other basic human needs. These funds will also go toward an effort to help potential migrants leaving the country, fleeing in an attempt to find better financial stability. They will also improve access to health care, which has been a challenge for people to access in Venezuela. As many as 5.4 million people have left the country in 2022 because of the unstable economy.

These funds ensure these people can have safe and productive new lives after leaving the country. Venezuelans will receive access to life-saving humanitarian programs like emergency shelters and obtain health care which has been difficult to access because of Venezuela’s own health care system. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) provided health care to more than 100,000 Venezuelans between 2020 and 2022, and since 2017, the U.S. has donated nearly $2 billion in total to Venezuela and the surrounding region. The humanitarian aid provided to the country has already done a lot to improve the lives of those living there and those attempting to leave. Curbing inflation in Venezuela is a step in the right direction.

Looking Ahead

The inflation crisis is severely affecting the entire world including Venezuela. People are having to leave the countries they call home in search of refuge and the possibility of a better life. A person’s displacement is a life-altering event that can change how they live forever. As more and more countries join in the fight to help Venezuela, hope exists that it will have a bright future.

– Alexander Peterson
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Venezuela
Efforts to address HIV/AIDs in Venezuela are facing barriers as the country is grappling with limited access to medications, health care and products to maintain sexual health. Due to the Venezuelan economic and political crisis, medical workers are pouring out of the country. Additionally, the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela has estimated that the country has had an 85% shortage of medicine as of 2018, making HIV/AIDs in Venezuela difficult to prevent and treat.

Venezuela’s Health Care System

Venezuela’s collapsing medical system has led to dire sexual education and limited condom access; many citizens have claimed that condoms are scarce at clinics, or egregiously expensive. In 2019, a pack of condoms was about $170 in Venezuela and people had to wait in long lines to purchase them.

The cost of condoms is a huge burden, as more than three-quarters of Venezuelans have been living in extreme poverty as of 2021. This has made Venezuela very vulnerable to sexually transmitted disease (STDs) transmission, including HIV, the deadliest STD there is. Therefore, HIV/AIDS in Venezuela has become an urgent humanitarian concern.

Understanding HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention

To prevent the spread of HIV, which is an STD that is highly preventable through condom use, individuals can get tested to limit the spread of the infection. In the case of treatment, antiviral drugs, or so-called “anti-HIV cocktails,” are highly successful in keeping HIV at bay so people do not subsequently contract AIDS.

AIDS is quite deadly and emerges at the point where the HIV virus has destroyed its host’s immune system. Although HIV is impossible to eliminate from the human body, a patient with the virus has about the same expected life expectancy as a patient without it. However, this is only true if the HIV-positive patient is receiving proper access to health care and HIV antiretroviral therapy. Otherwise, 90% of patients with the virus can expect to contract AIDS, which is fatal in eight to 10 years on average.

Venezuela’s HIV Crisis

Thus, HIV/AIDS in Venezuela has become a crisis precipitously with the country’s economic crisis. In a proper contagious disease protocol, citizens would have proper access to HIV testing. However, in a country with a medicine and health care shortage, this is hard to come by. Additionally, since many people with HIV experience discrimination, they often experience embarrassment at the possibility of testing. As of 2020, UNAIDS estimated that approximately 120,000 Venezuelans were HIV positive, which is about 0.3% of the country’s population.

HIV-Positive Refugees

HIV/AIDS in Venezuela is forcing citizens to leave to save their lives and obtain access to antiviral drugs elsewhere. The Venezuelan Network of Positive People has estimated that 10,000 Venezuelans had to leave due to poor HIV treatment options as a result of the economic crisis that has been ongoing since 2019. The only option HIV-positive Venezuelans have is to leave their homes to get the health care they need.

HIV and Venezuela’s Economic and Political Crisis

This situation is quite new for Venezuela. In fact, the country used to be a leading place for HIV treatment in the early 2000s. Since 1999, those with HIV/AIDS in Venezuela had access to free, government-funded treatment. Its public health system specifically targeted citizens that often experienced discrimination such as sex workers and other minority groups. However, under the political control of Hugo Chavez and his successors, such a program does not exist any longer. Unfortunately, political stability may be necessary before HIV-positive Venezuelans can receive treatment again.

Infected Venezuelan Refugees Find Hope in Colombia

About 1.7 million Venezuelans, or 37% of all Venezuelans, were living in Colombia as of 2021. Since Colombia has the highest Venezuelan refugee population, Colombian HIV/AIDS organizations are specifically targeting HIV-positive Venezuelans immigrating to the country.

The nonprofit Colombia AIDS Health care Foundation, founded in 2018 is one such example. Since its founding, it has provided HIV testing, condom delivery, outreach and treatment for HIV-positive persons. The organization provided antiretroviral drugs to 1,850 Colombians, mostly Venezuelan migrants, at a time as of 2021. The nonprofit works with the Colombian government, which provides free HIV treatment to documented migrants and undocumented migrants in emergency situations.

It is inspiring to see a country do so much to help its neighbors during an emergency. With other countries being not only willing to take in Venezuelan refugees but also to give them the medical care they need, there is hope for many Venezuelans.

– Mikaela Marinis
Photo: Unsplash

Remittances to Venezuela
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) defines remittances as “money transfers from citizens working abroad” as a contribution to the household income of their families in their home countries. The IMF sees remittances as a “lifeline for development,” especially in impoverished countries such as Venezuela. In Venezuela, the influx of remittances is growing rapidly and represents a large source of foreign income for Venezuelans. While remittances typically take the form of cash transfers, crypto remittances to Venezuela are playing a larger role in facilitating international transactions and becoming a vital source of income for Venezuelans, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic while the country faces hyperinflation and U.S. economic sanctions.

The Role of Remittances in Global Poverty Reduction

Remittances directly bolster the income of households that receive these payments and provide essential resources for the impoverished. The value of remittances lies in the fact that governance issues often linked to “official aid” do not impact remittances. Instead, remittances are able to circumvent “red tape” because the money goes directly into the pockets of the impoverished. According to the World Bank, “a 10% increase in per capita official remittances may lead to a 3.5% decline in the share of [impoverished] people,” further showing that remittances play a key role in poverty reduction. Harnessing technology and non-traditional approaches for remittances allow Venezuelans the opportunity to send and access this funding in a faster and more efficient way.

The Resiliency of Remittances

Experts expected remittances to decrease due to job insecurity abroad as a result of the pandemic. However, the flow of remittances remained resilient. According to the World Bank, remittances to developing countries only dropped 1.6% in 2020. Digitization of payments allows for a steady flow of remittances to countries like Venezuela —  according to a report by Global System for Mobile Communications, “international remittances processed via mobile money increased by 65% in 2020.” In 2018, United Nations member states adopted the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which recognizes the importance of remittances in the development of poverty-stricken countries such as Venezuela.

Cryptocurrency in the Context of Hyperinflation

As the bolivar continues to depreciate in Venezuela, cryptocurrency functions in a way that circumvents hyperinflation. Cryptocurrency is a decentralized form of currency, where its value does not stem from fiat currency or natural resources, but instead, derives from user demand. In 2021, the Venezuelan government introduced the 1-million-bolivar bill, which is equivalent to about $0.52, in an attempt to remedy the impacts of hyperinflation and economic sanctions. Venezuela has experienced hyperinflation due to falling oil prices, resulting in the government printing vast quantities of currency as a potential solution, but this only further devalued the bolivar. Increasingly, residents are turning to digital forms of payments. For example, street vendors in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas are accepting digital coins as a form of payment.

5 Benefits of Crypto Remittances to Venezuela

  1. Stability: Cryptocurrency remains steady compared to fiat currency, especially during times of inflation.
  2. Lower Fees: Commission fees for crypto remittances are lower in comparison to international transfer fees from companies like Western Union.
  3. Money and Time-Saving Costs: Research shows that crypto remittances “produce a 1% saving of income” because of the reduction of travel and wait time when sending remittances.
  4. Safety: Because Venezuela stands as “one of the most insecure [nations] in Latin America,” residents face the risk of theft when traveling with cash. Digital currency offers a degree of security and protection for people as their funds are stored on their devices.
  5. Continuing the Flow of Remittances: As the Maduro regime takes steps to further regulate remittances while rejecting foreign humanitarian aid, decentralized currencies could allow residents to continue receiving essential monetary flows.

Remittances to Venezuela’s Unbanked Population

According to the Global Findex Database, in 2017, close to 73% of Venezuelans had bank accounts and digital forms of receiving money are increasing each year as inflation devalues fiat currency and hyperinflation threatens the affordability of basic needs. More than 50% of transactions in the country use the U.S. dollar, and in 2020, experts projected that annual remittances would climb to $4 billion. The viability and sustainability of digital remittances, specifically cryptocurrency forms, are becoming more popular.

GiveCrypto Uses Cryptocurrency to Provide Aid to Venezuelans

As Venezuela continues to experience a financial crisis, cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, offers a degree of stability as an inflation-proof asset. Many nonprofits implement cryptocurrency in their strategies to bring aid to Venezuelans. In 2019, U.S.-based charity, GiveCrypto, “provided temporary assistance to hundreds of vulnerable families in Venezuela through weekly crypto deposits worth around $7,” which is equivalent “to the monthly minimum wage” in the country. This aid helped families purchase food and other essential goods.

In addition to aid, the organization provides resources that educate people about crypto apps to ensure that people have complete control of their digital currency. Efrain Pineda, the program manager, says, “We want to show that people who are not techies or investors can also benefit from this technology. Anyone can use crypto to protect themselves from inflation and make their daily life easier.”

Cryptocurrency Offers Hope for Venezuelans

With little end in sight for hyperinflation, Bitcoin is gaining traction as an alternative as traditional payment methods become regulated and overloaded. Venezuela ranks fourth globally for Bitcoin trade, and as more people flee Venezuela, digital forms of remittances continue to be an invaluable source of income for residents who remain.

– Jennifer Hendricks
Photo: Flickr

Domestic Violence Against Women in Venezuela
The fight to reduce domestic violence against women in Venezuela still needs improvement. In the past few decades, the country has faced severe political turmoil. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the violence women in Venezuela face. In most cases, women still have to rely on their domestic abusers for financial support. Currently, the country still presents many challenges and obstacles for women to obtain justice against their attackers. Recognizing the dire need for changes, domestic and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working hard to protect Venezuelan women’s rights and safety. Here are some NGOs leading the fight for reducing domestic violence against women in Venezuela.

Centro de Justicio y Paz (Cepaz)

Cepaz is a nongovernmental organization that works to promote democratic values, human rights and the culture of peace in Venezuela. The idea was born in a context that a great institutional crisis and generalized violence characterized. Cepaz focuses on the empowerment of citizens and women, activism networks and promotion of the culture of peace in the country. The organization aims to reduce violence against Venezuelan women by developing specialized work for vulnerable demographics. With its combined program in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action, the organization serves women victims of gender violence.

It accompanies grassroots women in impoverished areas to boost their leadership and awareness of rights. Cepaz is also supporting them in the generation of organizational processes that generate well-being. It provides assistance in the community in areas such as water, food, violence, sexual and reproductive health, among others. Through these works, Cepaz hopes to educate the country to recognize the immense danger Venezuelan women are facing due to domestic violence and gender inequality.

Prepara Familia

Prepara Familia is a nongovernmental organization committed to serving women and families. It is contributing to the construction of a solidary and a fairer society, as well as accompanying the defense and awareness of women’s rights. It began as a grassroots organization, working hand in hand with doctors, family members and children hospitalized at the J.M de los Ríos Hospital. Since its foundation, Prepara Familia has worked intensively for the rights of mothers, children and teenagers. The organization develops training and empowerment programs for Women Caregivers in the hospital and assists women who have suffered domestic violence. Through their works, the organization hopes to reduce violence against Venezuelan women and aid those in need.

Tinta Violeta

Tinta Violeta is a feminist nongovernmental organization that aims to use artistic expressions, such as the media and cinema, as mobilization tools. The organization seeks to mainstream feminism in all communication content and cultural discourses in Venezuela. Tinta Violeta wants to create a Venezuela with gender equality and free of domestic violence against women. Providing psychological and legal help the organization also accompanies the victim to the police station or the Prosecutor’s Office to file the complaint. Volunteers from Tinta Violeta have offered their own homes as safe houses and often listened to all those Venezuelan women that get in touch with them through their website, as well as their Facebook and Instagram accounts.


FundaMujer is a nongovernmental organization that seeks to create a safe space for feminist leaders to discuss and advocate for gender equality and reducing violence against women in Venezuela. Created when the aggravated situation regarding violence affecting women in Venezuela has escalated, FundaMujer supports the protection of women’s rights defenders. It is monitoring any threat against feminist organizations or women’s groups and providing security for any individual who is at risk. The organization also promotes the right of women to a life free of domestic violence. It mobilizes national and international resources to support women. FundaMujer holds local, regional and national authorities accountable for any violation of women’s rights.

Together, these four NGOs are all fighting for reducing domestic violence against women in Venezuela in addition to efforts made by the government. Through these combined efforts, domestic violence against women in Venezuela has substantially declined and women’s rights have continued to strengthen.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Flickr

Mega-Gangs of Venezuela 
Heavily armed with automatic weapons, hand grenades and military equipment, meta-gangs in Venezuela are unlike typical street gangs. Often, they have more weapons than the police, launching attacks against law enforcement and driving officers from gang territory. Numbering anywhere from 50 to more than 200 members each, the mega-gangs of Venezuela rule over the fearful civilians in their territory with impunity.

The gangs have lost some of their power in recent years, but the political and economic crises in the country are driving people to join them, increasing their influence. Some of the most notorious gangs are “El Koki’s” gang, Los 70 del Valle, Tren de Aragua and El Picure.

El Koki’s Gang

In the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, El Koki and his allies had full control of neighborhoods such as El Valle and Cota 905 until July 2021, the latter of which served as his gang’s stronghold. El Koki is distinct from other gang leaders. He never served jail time and is running his gang outside of prison. Additionally, he has already lived to the age of 43 when the average criminal in the country’s poorest areas does not live past 25. He has also had an outstanding arrest warrant since 2012.

In 2012, the Venezuelan government developed the “peace zones” policy. It began negotiations with hundreds of gangs from all over the country. The government offered a truce in which police would stay out of designated neighborhoods if the gangs ceased criminal activity in addition to providing financial incentives for gangsters to disarm. One such incentive was the use of money and other resources meant for starting legitimate businesses.

The policy backfired, however, when gangs like El Koki’s gang began using the money to discretely acquire heavier weaponry, as reported in El Pais. El Koki and other gang leaders also took advantage of Venezuela’s criminal organizations gathering for negotiations to bolster the size of their gangs. Merging with these other groups, they formed the numerous mega-gangs of Venezuela that followed the implementation of peace zones.

The “Peace Zones”

One of the established peace zones was Cota 905. El Koki seized the opportunity there due to the lack of a permanent police presence. He strengthened his control as he killed off rival gang leaders and made alliances with others. For four years prior to June 2021, the police did not cross into Cota 905 once to enforce the law, something El Koki’s connections to the military and government may have had a hand in. In June, however, the truce between El Koki’s gang and law enforcement fully broke down. The two sides entered a war when the gang invaded the La Vega neighborhood southwest of Cota 905.

Demonstrating how empowered the mega-gangs of Venezuela have become, El Koki’s gang launched an attack on central police headquarters. The government retaliated by sending roughly 800 troops into Cota 905, where they went door to door battling the gang. According to InSight Crime, El Koki’s whereabouts are unknown. However, some have said that he may be in Cúcuta, Columbia, a common sanctuary for Venezuelan gangsters where he can continue to run his gang.

Tren de Aragua

In the state of Aragua, the mega-gang Tren de Aragua operates out of Tocorón prison. With nearly 3,000 members in groups spread across the country and expanding into nations like Columbia and Peru, Tren de Aragua, once a railroad workers’ union, is the most powerful criminal organization in Venezuela. Last spring, the gang made headlines with the completion of a baseball stadium it constructed within the prison it occupies. Reportedly possessing other luxuries such as a swimming pool and a disco hall while brandishing greater firepower than the police, the gang has demonstrated its financial success to an impoverished nation enduring an economic crisis.

Using its large arsenal, vast numbers and extreme wealth, Tren de Aragua has been able to expand rapidly as it repeatedly clashes with police and the military. Like other mega-gangs, it is alluring to people in poverty who do not get enough help from the government, have limited opportunities and are lacking in police protection. According to Mirror, to entice youths and build rapport with communities, it offers food packages at a time when much of the population faces starvation due to poor economic conditions that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened.

Police Brutality

It is not strictly poverty and recruitment efforts that motivate people to join and comply with the mega-gangs. Police brutality is another contributing factor and extrajudicial killings in retaliation for gang violence are all too common. As El Pais reported, in July 2021, more than 3,000 officers responded to gun violence between police and El Koki’s gang. There were reports of the police committing extrajudicial executions and robberies, and the circumstance resulted in 24 victims. When police assume the role of executioner and their responses to gang activity cause innocents to die, people end up in the mega-gangs for membership and protection.

The Work of NGOs

Currently, various NGOs and nonprofits are working to alleviate the situation in Venezuela. One such nonprofit is InSight Crime, which conducts investigative journalism, data analysis and makes policy suggestions for governments regarding organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. InSight Crime speaks with police and officials when doing on-the-ground research. It also interacts with people involved in illegal activity to gain their perspective.

The International Crisis Group organization advises governments on preventing, managing and resolving deadly conflicts. Additionally, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is an organization that operates in Ecuador and provides shelter and supplies to migrants who the ongoing turmoil and violence displaced. There are also local organizations such as Mi Convive, a nonprofit that feeds thousands of hungry children a week. Nonprofits providing food to children like Mi Convive are essential in preventing mega-gangs from bribing them with food.

Other Solutions

The Venezuelan government is addressing the high levels of gang violence with police reform and crackdowns to kill or drive gang leaders out of their territory. However, to put an end to organized crime and dismantle the mega-gangs of Venezuela, the government must take a complex, multifaceted approach. Corruption in politics and the military has led to impunity and the mega-gangs becoming better armed than the police. Eliminating financial incentives for organized crime is important. Otherwise, materially motivated criminals will continue to organize for profit. The police and other local public institutions should receive empowerment to rally their communities. They should act against the mega-gangs while scaling back military involvement.

The Venezuelan government, NGOs and foreign nations must work together. They have to ensure there is funding for robust social programs and that Venezuelans have economic opportunities where they live. They should be doing sufficient community outreach to sway people from the criminals and meta-gangs of Venezuela should be facing appropriate consequences.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Venezuela
Due to the ongoing humanitarian and economic crises in the nation, mental health in Venezuela has become a forefront issue for both people who remain in the country and those migrating to flee the trouble at home. Mental health troubles affect Venezuelans of all ages and the changes that COVID-19 has brought about have compounded the issue.

Mental Health in Venezuela

Following the death of former Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro assumed power in 2013. Due to a reduction in foreign aid and outdated spending policies, the economy spiraled into a deficit, which eventually led to food and medical shortages. Since the start of the conflict, more than 5.6 million people have fled Venezuela, mostly to Peru or Colombia.

The turmoil from hyperinflation, political unrest and the ensuing mass exodus has created a stressful environment in which the development of mental health issues is common. Before the pandemic, one out of every two Venezuelan migrants in Peru exhibited some health issue, including those related to depression, fear, anxiety or stress, and went without professional care. Following the advent of COVID-19, estimates indicate that less than 10% of those in need of healthcare can receive treatment because of economic constraints or policies related to quarantines.

The Effects on Children

Mental health in Venezuela is not an issue limited to the adult population. Although Venezuela’s government does not track data on the mental wellness of its youth, it is possible to get a glimpse of the circumstances through those who work firsthand with Venezuelan children. Cecodap is one such NGO that focuses on child and adolescent rights. Psychologist Abel Saraiba works closely with Cecodap in Venezuela, reporting that the number of children exhibiting symptoms of depression and anxiety rose from 9% in February 2020 to 31% in June 2020. Venezuela’s first quarantine measures, which it implemented in March 2020, may have influenced this. Saraiba tells Reuters, “We have a complex humanitarian emergency on top of a pandemic,” and “the combination of these factors produces a deterioration in living conditions.”

Actions to Address Mental Health in Venezuela

While the situation of mental health in Venezuela remains dire, hope is on the horizon for those in need. UNICEF and the United Nations have taken notice of the struggles Venezuelans face, especially with COVID-19 exacerbating these issues.

One of the most significant sources of stress for children is unrest at home. UNICEF is working extensively with the population of Venezuela to spread awareness about the rise in domestic violence since the start of the pandemic. In addition, UNICEF helps provide support for returning Venezuelans and their families. UNICEF is also positioning counselors at the borders and assigning caseworkers to help stem domestic disputes.

The United Nations’ 2021 Venezuela Humanitarian Response Plan targets 4.5 million Venezuelans in need. The plan aims to “provide life-saving emergency assistance, secure livelihoods through improving access to basic services and ensure the protection of the most vulnerable,” among other goals. The plan’s funding will allow many who struggle with mental health in Venezuela to seek treatment. So far, showing support of the plan, the international community has committed roughly $83 million to aid struggling Venezuelans.

With aid to Venezuela from multiple organizations focusing on several aspects of well-being, including mental health, there is hope for mental health in Venezuela to improve.

– Kevin Leonard
Photo: Pixabay