Venezuelan refugees in PeruFor the last decade, Venezuela has seen a severe and damaging economic recession. As of 2018, inflation hit 130,060 percent. There are severe shortages of food and medicine and an increase in crime that has made life in Venezuela a battle for survival. Considering these factors, including President Nicolás Maduro not leaving power anytime soon, many Venezuelans have decided to pack their bags and leave their beloved homeland. In the past four years, approximately 10 percent of the population fled the country. Thankfully, shelters have opened to provide aid for Venezuelan refugees in Peru.

At first, many governments were willing to cooperate, but as more Venezuelans left, many countries established specific immigration requirements, such as having a valid passport. Even though this sounded fair for many, it closed the door to many of these refugees, as the cost of processing one visa is around 7,200 bolívars ($115); that is four times the local minimum wage.

Peru is one of the few nations that kept an open border policy for many years. However, that changed when President Martin Viscarra established that as of June 15, Venezuelans would need a passport and visa to enter Peru. That day, 5,849 people arrived at the border Peruvian border, and while some arrived just in time, others were left behind. These grim situations may make it seem that all hope is lost, but there are still many Peruvians who receive these migrants with open arms. These three shelters have given shelter and hope to Venezuelan refugees in Peru.

Casa Don Bosco

This Lima home directed by Salesian Missionaries takes part in integration projects that help newly arrived Venezuelans adapt to an entirely different culture. While it used to be an old vocational training facility, it now accommodates the needs of the refugees, by providing necessary guidance on finding housing and educating them on their fundamental workers’ rights. Casa Don Bosco also has ties with The Food Bank of Peru, allowing them to feed all the migrants that knock on their doors.

A Power Couple and Their Shelter

In June 2018, Raquel Vásquez and Ernesto Reyes, a married couple, bought an old house in the middle of the Comas district. Their mission was to provide refuge to any Venezuelan refugees that arrived in Lima. Once installed, Venezuelans are allowed to stay for up to one month for free, giving them time to find a job and better housing. Vásquez and Reyes said that opening the shelter was a necessity, especially after seeing all the refugees sleeping on the streets, penniless after spending all their money just to get to Lima. The shelter operates thanks to the couple’s own money and local donations.

Rene Cobeña’s Shelter and Business

The owner of this shelter is textile businessman Rene Cobeña, who bought an old hotel and transformed it into a safe haven. The house not only offers Venezuelans breakfast, lunch and dinner but also operates as a small business, employing the same refugees. Using his money and some donations, Cobeña buys ingredients to make arepas and donuts that the refugees sell. He has also sold some of his textile machines to fund better ingredients and transportation. Thanks to these efforts, the refugees were able to start building their savings, helping themselves and their families, and eventually leave the shelter to begin anew.

These shelters are not on alone in their efforts; despite the lack of legal assistance, the owners and many other Peruvians are giving what they can to help. Venezuelans are escaping one of the most brutal dictatorships of the last century, and all they need is a helping hand through this difficult time as Venezuelan refugees in Peru.

– Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Wikimedia

Hyperinflation

When it comes to global poverty, an important factor of a country’s economy is its inflation rate. Inflation occurs when the value of a nation’s currency decreases, but the prices for goods increase. Inflation affects many facets of everyday life, such as nationwide poverty rates, food and medical supplies.

Hyperinflation occurs when inflation rates rise quickly and uncontrollably. Hyperinflation is reached when an economy’s inflation rate is at least fifty percent for a thirty day period. However, high inflation rates consistent over a prolonged period of time also qualify as hyperinflation.  Here are three countries in hyperinflation today.

Venezuela

In the 1970s world energy crisis, Venezuela was a highly profitable oil producer. After oil prices dropped once the energy crisis ended in the 1980s, Venezuela’s chief export greatly declined in revenue and its economy began to suffer. Despite the decline in exports, Venezuela still needed to spend large sums of funding on the importation of basic goods for its people. This led to inflation, as the country dug itself into deficit spending. To pay for imported goods, Venezuelan banks then printed out paper notes not backed by actual wealth.

Now, inflation in Venezuela has reached monumental levels of devastation. Venezuela has been in hyperinflation since November 2016, when the inflation rate exceeded 50 percent. The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation in Venezuela will exceed ten million percent by the end of 2019.

Because of this economic crisis, poverty is widespread. In 2017, the poverty rate across Venezuelan households reached 87 percent. On top of widespread poverty, food and medical supply shortages are rampant across Venezuela. The health of its people has deteriorated as weight loss and the spread of disease inflict the nation.

Currently, the Venezuelan government rejects the International Monetary Fund’s option to default on its debt. Venezuelan U.N. representatives have commented that in order for the nation to progress, it needs internal structural changes, not foreign aid.

South Sudan

South Sudan’s economy is also almost entirely oil-based. Of the countries in hyperinflation, South Sudan is the newest, gaining independence from British rule in 2011. However, South Sudan was quickly caught in a civil war from 2013 to 2018, soon after its founding. Damage to oil fields and other resources due to warfare severely affected the revenue of South Sudan’s exports. Inflation began as the struggle for resources and funding inflicted this budding nation.

South Sudan’s current economic crisis has caused mass poverty and food insecurity for its civilians. According to recent reports from the U.N., 43 percent of South Sudanese households are food insecure. At its peak, inflated food prices reached about 513 percent in December 2016. By the end of December 2018, the inflation on food prices dropped to 51 percent but is still hyperinflammatory by definition.

Unfortunately, South Sudan is currently not focusing on any poverty-reduction programs. According to the World Bank Organization, South Sudan’s overall inflation rate was an estimated 130.9 percent by the end of 2018; by the end of 2019, it is expected to drop to 49.3 percent, just under the hyperinflation threshold. However, given the financial instability of the nation, South Sudan will remain under close observation of the International Monetary Fund and similar entities for the foreseeable future.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s economy thrived in the 1980s and early 1990s, after declaring its independence from British control and creating its own domestic dollar currency in celebration. In the 1990s, however, Zimbabwe’s agricultural-based economy took a major hit after a series of crop failures. Compounded by the high costs of imports and funding for the war, Zimbabwe’s economy began to falter. In a panic to pay for goods, Zimbabwean banks rushed to print excess bills, leading the nation into hyperinflation.

Zimbabwe’s economy reached hyperinflation in March 2007, just passing the 50 percent threshold. For the next year, the nation’s inflation was a tumultuous series of highs and lows, eventually reaching a staggering 79.6 billion percent in November 2008. Eventually, Zimbabwe was forced to abandon its domestic currency, as its own population boycotted using the drastically inflated Zimbabwean dollar.

Despite the nation’s inflation rate lowering back down to 59.4 percent as of February 2019, Zimbabwe is still struggling to limit its cost of imports and boost its revenue from exports.

Potential Solutions

While there are numerous potential ways to address hyperinflation, a common solution for this phenomenon is dollarization — the abandonment of a failing domestic currency in favor of a stable foreign currency. A notable success story of dollarization is Montenegro, where the considerably weak Yugoslavic dinar was replaced with the euro, a more stable currency used widespread across the European Union. Before total dollarization, the inflation in Montenegro peaked at 26.5 percent in 2001. After adopting the euro, the country’s inflation is under one percent, as of 2019.

Of the three countries in hyperinflation today, Zimbabwe did utilize this method of dollarization; however, as of 2019, it abandoned dollarization, triggering the start of nationwide economic problems yet again. Overall, for these three countries in hyperinflation today, maintaining dollarization may be their best chance in regaining economic stability.

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Wikimedia

Education in Venezuela

Since 2015, approximately 4 million people have fled Venezuela. For those who have not left the country, food, water and jobs are scarce in the wake of a collapsed economy and hyperinflation. Perhaps the most victimized of the population are children who are unable to find basic access to education in Venezuela.

Why Are Children Not Attending School?

As Venezuelans struggle to afford basic necessities for survival, many children in Venezuela have stopped attending school. For families facing severe hunger, the extra cost of school supplies and uniforms is a price they often cannot afford. Students are unable to perform at school without proper nutrition or clothing. Many parents decide that their children should stay home where they have a chance at a meal.

More than 3 million of the country’s 8 million students have dropped out of school. Some of these students have emigrated with their parents, while others have quit to work and adopt caretaker roles within the family. As Venezuelans face widespread malnutrition, the educational needs of the children in Venezuela remain secondary. It is estimated that 1.1 million children will remain in need of basic education in 2019.

Although education was a hallmark of President Maduro’s campaign, the government can no longer afford to supply schools with proper maintenance and lunches. Public education previously provided a food bonus with a healthy lunch for students. That food program no longer functions, and students cannot rely on meals. In addition, with prices doubling every other month, the transportation system has failed, and both schools and parents struggle to afford bus fares for students.

School Closures without Teachers

Because of low enrollment, hundreds of schools have closed, and thousands of teachers have left their jobs. According to the Venezuelan Teacher’s Association, 176,000 of the country’s 860,000 registered teachers have quit. With wages amounting to about $8 a month, instructors of both private and public schools can no longer afford to work.

Many struggling schools only operate three days a week. Additionally, students from various grade levels are often combined into one class. These schools are desperate to keep the children in Venezuela from dropping out and missing years of formative education under harsh circumstances. Due to the teacher shortage affecting Venezuelan schools, parents are taking on teaching roles, despite a lack of experience or education. Parents believe that any schooling is better than none. As Maria Carmona, a mother-turned-teacher says, “Our children must learn, so I became their teacher.”

Efforts to Help Children Receive An Education in Venezuela

Nonprofit organizations, such as Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation and Pasión Petare, offer places of refuge and free meals for students. Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation has provided school supplies for more than 350 families and sent 58,000 pounds of food. Pasión Petare uses soccer to motivate children to stay in school and provides a daily meal for 2,000 students.

Catholic relief organizations like Fe y Alegria and Caritas also raise money to provide food and school supplies. Fe y Alegria provides free education to 170 schools across the country and has implemented a food program for school children. The organization also began a campaign called “A Notebook for Fe Y Alegria,” which raises funds to provide school supplies that most families can no longer afford.

Because President Maduro recently conceded to requests for foreign aid, there are more opportunities for organizations such as the U.N. and Red Cross to offer assistance for Venezuelan schools. UNICEF has partnered with Fe y Alegria and reached more than 100,000 people through radio communication with information on how to help children continue their education. UNICEF and its partner organizations have also provided educational kits for 150,000 children and supply food and water for children in schools. This motivates children and parents to send their children to school.

The Venezuelan government continues to deny problems with their country’s education system. If not for the herculean efforts of international relief organizations, private charities and hands-on assistance from parents and local volunteers, hope would not remain for school children in Venezuela. Children face a bleak future and are vulnerable to exploitation without education. With less than 2 percent of all humanitarian aid allotted to education, it is vital to continue calling for assistance amid the rising crisis. As Susana Raffalli, an advisor to Caritas and renowned nutrition expert, says, “We need our children back in school, because that’s one of the few care and nutrition spaces left.”

– Christina Laucello
Photo: Flickr

Angelina Jolie
Unlike her character as a bad girl in Tomb Raider or as a vengeful Maleficent, Angelina Jolie has a soft spot when it involves philanthropy work. The American actress has a long record of helping communities globally. Although a mother of six, Jolie pauses her mom duties to find time to visit developing countries, improve the lives of refugees, get involved with charitable work, create foundations and fund schools in other countries. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and is serving as the co-chair of the Educational Partnership for Children of Conflict.

Angelina Jolie, Goodwill Ambassador

Jolie uses her role as a Goodwill Ambassador to advocate for those who are no longer safe in their home countries. Most recently, Jolie has traveled to Peru and Colombia to visit Venezuelan refugees. During her trip to Peru, she spent two days in Lima at the border where massive groups of refugees enter daily. She spoke with a few refugees to hear stories of what their lives were like before migrating in hopes of a better life and freedom.

Crisis in Venezuela

Nearly 1.3 million Venezuelans are living in Columbia, and Jolie made it her mission to visit a few of them during her trip there. Jolie met with Colombian President Ivan Duque to express concern over the 20,000 Venezuelan children who are at risk of being without basic citizenship. They discussed how children can become nationalized and the importance of international support.

In a statement given at the press conference at the Integrated Assistance Centre, Jolie expresses how serious the influx of refugees affects not only the refugees themselves, but the countries they settle in.“The countries receiving them, like Colombia, are trying to manage an unmanageable situation with insufficient resources,” Jolie said. “This is a life and death situation for millions of Venezuelans. But UNHCR has received only a fraction of the funds it needs, to do even the bare minimum to help them survive.”

Rhoyinga Refugees

In February 2019, Jolie visited Bangladesh for three days to provide help for over 700,000 Rhoyinga refugees who have settled in the country. Jolie expressed concern over the challenges Bangladesh may face as a host country to a great number of refugees. Jolie was especially focused on making sure the refugees were comfortable and content after being forced to leave their home country, Myanmar. “I am here to see what more can be done to ensure Rohingya children can gain an education with recognized qualifications that they need to retain a clear vision for their futures, and, when conditions allow, rebuild their communities in Myanmar,” Jolie said. While there, she also created a new appeal of almost $1 billion dollars to support the rise of refugees.

Angelina Jolie’s fight to improve the lives of refugees dates back to 2002, a year after receiving the role as Goodwill Ambassador for UNHC for Refugees. Her consistent commitment to those who are displaced by force shows she is someone who genuinely cares for the lives of those who are struggling. Angelina Jolie is a prime example of someone using your voice and resources to help those who are in need.

– Jessica Curney

Photo: UNHCR

 

 

Slums in Venezuela
The once oil-rich South American nation of Venezuela has seen tremendous hardship in recent years as the economy has collapsed and inflation rates continue to rise. In many urban centers across Venezuela, the poor reside in slums, known as barrios. The number of people living in barrios has steadily increased as the county has become urbanized. These barrios are vulnerable to a host of threats, including high levels of violence and environmental dangers. Below is a list of 10 facts about slums in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Slums in Venezuela

  1. Rapid urbanization following the financial boom during the 1950s in Venezuela led to a major housing shortage. As the country’s economy skyrocketed, many people abandoned a rural way of life to move to city centers. The country could not accommodate the influx of people to the cities. This led to overcrowded urban housing structures, such as the famed 23 de Enero, which years later would develop into one of the country’s largest slums. Today, nearly 93 percent of the Venezuelan population lives in urban centers. In the capital of Caracas, two-thirds of the population live in slums.
  2. In 2011, in an effort to solve the housing shortage which left 3.7 million Venezuelans without proper shelter, Former president Hugo Chavez passed a bill that would allow people to build upon any unoccupied land. Therefore, families that occupied homes in the slums most often built them as well. Because much of the land in the mountainous regions of Venezuela is not suitable to build upon, people took to building their homes on top of each other. This created crowded vertical slum communities, most notable in the outskirts of the country’s biggest city, Caracas.
  3. Venezuela was previously home to the tallest slum in the world. Amid the bustling financial center of Caracas, the famed Tower of David stood 45 stories high and housed 750 families. Abandoned before its completion, people developed the unfinished skyscraper into a slum apartment complex. In 2016, government officials evacuated the families and an earthquake partially destroyed the tower soon after.
  4. Venezuela currently has one of the world’s highest inflation rates in the world. At the end of 2018, Venezuela’s annual inflation rate was 180,000 percent. Massive inflation has led to widespread food insecurity and has left 82 percent of the population impoverished. Many people have quit their jobs in order to spend their days finding food. People must stand in long lines for food in the slums in Venezuela, while the wealthier people take to the black market to buy food at exorbitant prices.
  5. Many of the slums in Venezuela are on the sides of steep mountain slopes. With a rainy season that lasts several months, from May to November, residents of the feebly built slums in Venezuela are very vulnerable to environmental dangers, such as earthquakes and mudslides. Years of construction on these mountainsides have destabilized the soil, doubling the threat since the 1950s of deadly mudslides. One of the most notorious storms hit Venezuela in 1999 when a year’s worth of rain fell in just a matter of days. Mudslides following this storm killed 32,000 people and left 140,000 homeless.
  6. A series of massive power outages that began in March 2019 left more than 20 million people without access to running water for over two weeks. With an unstable government and economic collapse, there is a continual threat of more power outages in Venezuela. Out-of-date electrical power systems are necessary to pump water up the steep hillsides where most of the slums reside. Whereas wealthier Venezuelans can travel to streams and lakes for their water, residents of the slums must line up at local manholes, nicknamed pozos or wells, for their water supply. Because many are using unclean water sources, there has been a recent increase in Typhoid Fever and Hepatitis A.
  7. Approximately 840,000 children in Venezuela have lost at least one parent to emigration in recent years, and hundreds have moved into orphanages as their parents struggle to provide for their children. Thirty-three percent of children have a growth delay and mental damage from malnourishment, and the under-5 mortality rate has increased by 50 percent since 2014. President Nicolás Maduro has recently shut down social service offices, such as those that the Fundana orphanage in Caracas runs, that helped desperate parents in the slums arrange for their children to enter the orphanages. Now, many live on the streets in the hopes that someone will save them.
  8. In April 2019, President Nicolás Maduro changed his policy and agreed to allow aid to enter Venezuela, bringing hope to the malnourished and endangered population. UNICEF and its partner organizations have provided health and nutritional supplies to more than 350,000 Venezuelan women and children in the past year. These organizations have also distributed over 12,000 water purification tablets and 4,200 oral rehydration salts during this time. These, along with other international relief services, vow to continue to help the malnourished population in Venezuela.
  9. Because hospitals lack basic necessities and access to clean water, UNICEF and its partner organizations have worked to provide generators to hospitals in the case of power outages. In addition, they have sent 55 tons of health supplies to the country since January 2019. These supplies include deworming tablets that have helped 4.3 million children and breastfeeding or pregnant women. They also include vaccines to combat the deadly diseases that plague children in Venezuela, including nine million doses of the diphtheria vaccine, during their national immunization campaign.
  10. Although many teachers have left and school attendance has dropped by half in the past two years, people have not given up on the struggling youth in Venezuela. International relief efforts and nonprofit organizations have come together to offer safety and psychological treatment for the at-risk youth. UNICEF has contributed 260 education kits for over 150,000 children in public schools. It has also offered psychosocial support for nearly 10,000 children. The Venezuelan organization Pasión Petare, which uses soccer to help children stay motivated and avoid lives of crime in the slums in Venezuela, has also recently begun to offer daily meals and a safe place to spend the day to over 2,000 students in the slum of Petare.

Given these 10 facts about the slums in Venezuela, there is clearly a need for the world to continue working and fighting on behalf of the struggling population. Despite the dire circumstances that exist in the barrios, the people continue to fight for their survival. From private orphanages and grassroots organizations to international relief efforts, the world clearly cares about the plight of Venezuelans. People are aware of the tremendous difficulties that face the country and will continue to reach out with assistance as the population gropes for their survival one day at a time.

– Christina Laucello
Photo: Flickr

relief for VenezuelansThe Venezuelan people are experiencing a crisis with the collapse of their economic and healthcare system. They are challenged with a lack of medical supplies and equipment. Malnutrition and food insecurity are becoming extreme issues as well. Since 2014, it is estimated that more than 3 million Venezuelans have migrated to other countries to seek food and a better life. In the wake of Venezuela’s crisis, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) proposed the Humanitarian Assistance to the Venezuelan People Act of 2019, which will contribute to relief for Venezuelans during this time of crisis.

Aid to the Healthcare System

The Humanitarian Assistance to the Venezuelan People Act of 2019 focuses on healthcare facilities. The bill suggests offering aid by supplying the healthcare facilities with necessary medical equipment, medicines that are in great demand and other basic medical supplies that a facility might need.

With the Venezuelan healthcare system collapsing and shortages of medicine and supplies growing, several diseases, such as measles and malaria, have started to affect many people. This proposed bill will ensure the proper distribution of medicines and supplies to Venezuelan healthcare facilities via local nongovernment organizations.

Food and Nutrition Assistance

Assistance in food and nutritional supplies will also contribute to relief for Venezuelans. The children of Venezuela are experiencing extreme malnutrition in what some researchers are already considering a famine. As much as 41 percent of children can go without eating throughout for an entire day in Venezuela. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell’s bill aims to address the lack of food security and increased malnutrition. The bill will handle these issues by supplying people with food commodities and supplements.

Reports stated in the proposed bill will monitor the relief for Venezuelans. The bill proposes assistance with ensuring that all health and food supplies being distributed to Venezuelans are dutifully selected and spread throughout the entire population. Local nongovernment organizations are to oversee these distributions.

The bill’s reports will cover how well supplies are being spread out to the population and assess the degree of relief being provided to the population. The United States Agency for International Development and the Department of State will oversee the delivery of the assistance and ensure that it is properly handled.

Where is the Bill Now?

On March 25, 2019, the Humanitarian Assistance to the Venezuelan People Act of 2019 was passed in the House of Representatives and will now move on to the U.S. Senate. The proposed bill was read by the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Foreign Relations on March 26, 2019. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell states that providing $150 million each fiscal year will help to achieve the goals of providing relief for Venezuelans. The proposed bill concludes with condemning the current situation in Venezuela and the actions carried out by the Maduro regime and the country’s security forces.

– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Violence in VenezuelaVenezuela has been in an economic crisis since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998 when the country’s oil-based socialist economy began to rapidly decline. Since then, Venezuela has faced extreme inflation that exacerbates with each passing year. Crippling poverty exists in this South American nation on a massive scale, snowballing into issues beyond the depreciation of the bolivar currency. In Venezuela, nationwide violence is a consistent problem that brings mass media attention from all over the world. In order to fully understand how to help alleviate the rising violence in Venezuela, it is essential to understand the top 10 facts about violence in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Violence in Venezuela

  1. A primary cause of violence in Venezuela is the economic recession sweeping across the nation. Since November 2016, the country has been experiencing hyperinflation, as every month since that November, the bolivar currency has exceeded an over 50 percent inflation rate. In addition, Venezuela’s overall unemployment rate has been around 35 percent since December 2018; projections state that this rate will significantly increase to 44 percent by the end of 2019. According to the United Nations, nearly 90 percent of Venezuelan residents live in poverty. This economic recession has caused mass financial insecurity across the nation, becoming a potential cause for the rising violence across Venezuela.
  2. Gangs, especially mega-gangs, are a major factor in the violence across Venezuela. Mega-gangs typically have around 50 members, with some gangs having members in the hundreds. There are about a dozen of these mega-gangs nationwide. Criminal gangs heavily congregate in the poorest places in Venezuela, called barrios or ranchos. The gangs are frequently responsible for violent crimes in these impoverished neighborhoods.
  3. The Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice ranked the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, as the most violent city in the world in 2016. As of 2018, Caracas maintains its place as one of the top three most violent cities worldwide.
  4. Caracas reaches notoriety for its high homicide rates. In 2015, Caracas was at one of its highest homicides per capita with around 119 murders per 100,000 residents.
  5. Across the whole of Venezuela today, the estimated homicide rate is 89 murders per 100,000 residents. While less compared to Caracas on its own, Venezuela’s overall homicide rate is still one of the highest worldwide.
  6. Despite there being violent crime widespread across the nation, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory reports that people report just over 60 percent of Venezuelan’s crimes.
  7. While many consider Caracas to be one of the most unsafe cities in the world, the true extent of violence in Venezuela is only speculative. According to Insight Crimes, referencing the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, the Venezuelan government prevents the release of real crime statistics. The Venezuelan government rejects any observational claims that the nation’s crime rates, especially in regard to homicides, are increasing. Nongovernmental groups like the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVV) have become the primary sources reporting on violence in Venezuela in the absence of government transparency.
  8. Under the regime of Nicolás Maduro, the Bolivarian National Police has created the Special Actions Forces (FAES) in response to the national crises. According to the OVV, about one-third of the murders in Caracas are the result of FAES and other security forces within Maduro’s regime. These security forces aim to repress political protestors and target suspects of violent crimes.
  9. Violence is committed by both sides of the Venezuelan political crisis. Loyalists and security forces in support of Maduro’s regime target protesters resulting in beatings, unlawful incarcerations and atrocities committed to those incarcerated. Some have reported that rebels protesting Maduro’s regime are aggressive towards police forces. They reportedly set fires to street barricades, and in an isolated attack, attempted to drop grenades onto a government building.
  10. Organized crime and violence flourish in abandoned peace zones across Venezuela. An unofficial government project, the government designated peace zones areas across Venezuela that lack police presence. The locals were supposed to negotiate policing, which left communities vulnerable to gangs. With the peace zones initiative now abandoned, these areas remain overrun with black markets and violent crimes.

Crime and violence is now an everyday norm across Venezuela, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths each year, and increasingly unsafe living conditions nationwide.

While there are many issues surrounding the violence in Venezuela, however, the world is noticing the situation. The United Nations has recently met to discuss the numerous crises going on in Venezuela. There was a mass condemnation of the government’s use of violence against peaceful civilians. The overall consensus is that since the problems in Venezuela stem from political discourse, peaceful political initiatives are the correct route in addressing the nation’s problems.

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

American Foreign Policy in Venezuela
Following the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, Nicolas Maduro of the United Socialist Party was selected as president of Venezuela and the country has been under his authoritarian rule ever since. Economic crises and major human rights violations have flourished in Venezuela, calling the attention of international human rights organizations and U.S. officials. This crisis has only intensified the maltreatment of poverty-ridden Venezuelans resulting in the influence of American foreign policy in Venezuela.

Human Right Violations in Venezuela and resulting effects on Poverty

The Venezuelan government’s reluctance to listen to its citizens – particularly low-income workers – has led to the growth of poverty and poor living conditions throughout the nation. According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018, Venezuelan workers have been gathering in “sporadic and often spontaneous small-scale protests” throughout 2018 to demand basic needs such as water and electricity. The Venezuelan government used arbitrary detention and strict police tactics to halt protests in 2017. The government repression and suspension of the freedom to peacefully assemble has stalled the granting of aid to those suffering in these poor conditions.

The economic crisis has further exacerbated the maltreatment of Venezuelan workers. In fact, during January 2018, workers in several sectors – such as health, petroleum, transportation, and electricity – held protests and strikes in order to denounce hunger salaries, which are wages insufficient to afford a basic food basket and unable to keep up with the rate of hyperinflation. In response, President Maduro raised the national minimum wage to 1,800 Bolivares Soberanes ($11). However, union leaders from the petroleum, health, telecommunications and electricity sectors stated that this decree did not include wage adjustments. Therefore, people would still not be able to afford a basic food basket.

Basic human rights in Venezuela, such as water, electricity and especially food, have become contingent on political loyalty. In fact, the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 states that President Maduro has “[conditioned] the receipt of food assistance on support for his government and increasing military control over the economy.” Food shortages have become a severe problem among the poor in Venezuela. A study showed that 64.3 percent of Venezuelans stated that they lost weight in 2017, with the poorest people losing the most. In fact, this study also found that nine out of 10 Venezuelans could not afford daily food.

“Its just government incompetence,” William Meyer, a professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware, said. “They can’t even run the country officially anymore. They can’t even provide basic services like electricity anymore, the government is so corrupt and chaotic and inept.”

American Foreign Policy Intervention in Venezuela

The U.S. government has already established new rules through foreign policy in an attempt to oppose Venezuela’s authoritarian government. Along with Canada, the European Union and Panama, the United States imposed targeted sanctions on more than 50 Venezuelan officials in response to their implications with human rights abuses and corruptions. Additionally, in 2017, the United States imposed financial sanctions that banned dealings on new stocks and bonds issued by the Venezuelan government and its state oil company.

However, these new changes to American foreign policy in Venezuela may have a negative effect on its people. This is in the hope that the changes will produce long term benefits.

“Unfortunately, all economics sanctions are going to make things worse for all the average people,” Meyer said. “The hope is that economic sanctions will undermine the regime and somehow Maduro will leave and be removed from power.”

Meyer makes it clear that Venezuela has extremely limited options for American foreign policy and that intervening through other options, such as military intervention, would be a drastic mistake.

“[Humanitarian aid] is about the best that we can hope for right now,” Meyer said.

The United States has donated a sum of humanitarian aid towards the Venezuelan Crisis, as USAID reports having provided $152,394,006 in humanitarian funding. This includes a $40.8 million State/PRM contribution to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to support regional relief efforts. Additionally, USAID funded another $15 million for the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) in order to support Venezuelan refugees in Colombia.

Additionally, there are charities and organizations throughout the U.S. that are donating aid towards the crisis in Venezuela to ease the effect of poverty. One of those organizations is the Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation, which has already shipped over 63,000 lbs of life-saving supplies to Venezuela.

The poverty that plagues Venezuela is dependent solely upon the wrongdoings of its authoritarian dictator. While U.S. foreign policymakers have limitations when it comes to fixing Venezuela’s deep economic and political crisis, it is clear that Venezuela’s impoverished need long-term humanitarian aid. However, it is clear that much of the aid and assistance that goes towards Venezuela is dependent on the donations and assistance of individuals rather than the government. Due to efforts and donations of volunteers, the Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation was able to quadruple its impact in its second year of operation, sending 60,000 Ibs of shipments to Venezuela.

Healing Venezuela

Healing Venezuela is another charity that helps the country by sending management programs, medical supplies, support and staff to Venezuela. Once again, due to the donations of donors, Healing Venezuela was able to send 7 tonnes of medical supplies, install a water treatment plant, sponsor HIV and provide cancer tests for over 150 low-income patients.

Many human rights violations are occurring in Venezuela under the unchecked dictatorship of Nicholas Maduro, such as the lack of access to free speech, food, water and electricity. American foreign policy in Venezuela can only go so far when it comes to fixing the problem. However, the generous donations and work of successful charities, such as Cuatro Por Venezuela and Healing Venezuela, are helping to relieve the many issues that plague Venezuela.

– Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Flickr

Crisis in VenezuelaIn March 2013, after a 14-year rule, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died of cancer. He was succeeded by Vice President Nicolas Maduro. Since then, the oil-rich but cash-poor South American country has been in a political and economic crisis. Here are 10 things you should know about the crisis in Venezuela.

10 Things to Know About the Crisis in Venezuela

  1. Inflation rates are at an all-time high. The biggest problem in the day-to-day lives of Venezuelans is due to the record high inflation rates. Throughout the Chavez presidency, the inflation rate had fluctuated between 10 and 40 percent but never higher. Since Maduro took office inflation rates have grown exponentially. In 2018, the inflation rate hit 1.3 million percent and is projected to reach 10 million in 2019. With inflation being so high, it becomes impossible for Venezuelans to buy basic necessities.
  2. Minimum wage is as low as $6 a month. On top of the high inflation rate, the minimum wage is now $6 dollars a month. Nearly 90 percent of the country’s population is living in poverty and unable to buy basic goods. Additionally, the number of active companies in Venezuela has dropped dramatically, minimizing the number of jobs available to citizens.
  3. More than 3 million people have fled the country. Over the last five years, the crisis in Venezuela has forced more than 3 million people out of their homes. Most of these refugees have claimed that the lack of rights to health and food were among the main reasons for them to leave. These migrants, who made up roughly 10 percent of the Venezuelan population, have fled to neighboring countries including Chile, Colombia and Brazil.
  4. There are currently two presidents. Since 2019 started, political tensions in Venezuela have escalated. In early January, President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term, following an election period of boycotts and opposition. The results of this election led to a new wave of rallies throughout the streets of Venezuela, particularly the capital city of Caracas. These boycotts culminated with the elected leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, naming himself interim president.
  5. The rest of the world is very split over who to support. The most unique part about Guaido declaring himself interim president is that several countries around the world immediately acknowledged it as legitimate. The United States, much of Europe and several South American countries recognize Guaido as the rightful interim president of Venezuela. However, Russia, China and most of the Middle East still recognize Maduro as the president. Additionally, some countries, including Italy, are calling for a new election to determine the rightful president.
  6. Oil output has declined dramatically. Venezuela has over 300 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, making it a leader amongst the world’s oil-rich countries. Oil production dropped in 2002 after Chavez was first elected, but soon after, it rose back up to regular rates and has been steady since. Since 2012, however, there has been a consistent decrease in oil output. In January 2019, President Trump announced that the U.S. will not import oil from Venezuela for the time being, in hopes that economic pressure will lead to correcting the political crisis.
  7. There have been countless mass protests across the country. The crisis in Venezuela has sparked riots and rallies across the whole country. In 2018 alone, there were more than 12 thousand protests, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict. These protests, starting in 2002 after Chavez came to power, have only escalated in violence since.
  8. Officials have resorted to excessive use of force. In April of 2017, Maduro ordered armed forces to put a stop to what had been weeks of anti-government protests. In the two months to follow, more than 120 people were killed, 2,000 were injured and more than 5,000 were detained. Since then, multiple citizens have been killed or injured when police and protesters have clashed.
  9. Maduro’s administration denies that it is in a human rights crisis. Despite the statistics pointing to the crisis in Venezuela, Maduro and his administration have not acknowledged the human rights crisis. Additionally, the administration has not recognized the shortages of food and medication, and, as a result, it has not accepted international humanitarian assistance. Despite the lack of official recognition, the current state of Venezuela has been regarded as the worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory in the Western Hemisphere.
  10. The crisis is taking a toll on the overall health of the country. Since 2014, the number of malaria cases in Venezuela has more than quadrupled. After years of remaining steadily below 100 thousand cases, there are now more than 400 thousand people living in Venezuela with malaria. This is because there is a dramatic shortage of anti-malaria drugs for all strains. Medical facilities are struggling with a shortage of 85 percent for medications. At least 13 thousand Venezuelan doctors were among those who have fled the country. A lack of proper medical care is making the people of Venezuela more susceptible to treatable diseases such as tuberculosis.

The crisis in Venezuela is worsening by the day. There are countless people being forced to leave their homes, jobs and families in hopes of finding a safer place to live. While the country awaits political intervention and foreign aid, there are still ways for people overseas to give help. Many nonprofit organizations, including The Better World Campaign, are doing their part in helping the humanitarian crisis. These groups are always looking for volunteers and donations. Spreading the word about the situation in Venezuela, raising awareness and mobilizing others to donate is also a great way to help, even from afar.

Charlotte Kriftcher
Photo: Flickr

children in venezuela
In a nation experiencing an economic crisis, the children of Venezuela are suffering. Poverty is on the rise, including an increase in the malnutrition of children due to limited access to resources. Families fleeing to Peru have traveled quite far. Along the way, many have faced discrimination due to their migrant status. UNICEF and Plan International have developed a strategy for aiding children who are experiencing rapid changes in their home lives. They are helping children in Venezuela find a “Happiness Plan.”

Conditions in Venezuela

At one time, Venezuela was part of a wealthier portion of Latin America. However, with new officials and underdevelopment, poverty is now abundant. A large number of resources were focused toward developing the oil industry while other developments were delayed. With the newfound prosperity that oil brought, the economic gap grew further and further apart. The consequences of such destitution can be easily seen in the adults and children of Venezuela. Food, medicine, water and other resources are greatly lacking. This leaves people desperately searching for food.

The desperation associated with poverty was significantly increased in March due to a five-day blackout. Resources like food and water were even more scarce than usual. Some resorted to collecting water from sewage pipes. Multitudes of people were left without food. People rushed to stores to find food but discovered that the stores were already stripped. Some stores were even trashed and burnt in the chaos that ensued with riots. The riots were also the cause of several deaths from untreated medical conditions to gunshot wounds. Hospitals operated under less than ideal conditions, with limited access to electricity and supplies, such as soap.

The Effects of This Crisis On Children

In a press release, UNICEF stated, “ While precise figures are unavailable because of very limited official health or nutrition data, there are clear signs that the crisis is limiting children’s access to quality health services, medicines and food.” Statistics about conditions in Venezuela can be hard to come by, and the ones that are available are often disheartening. Malnutrition is becoming a larger issue for the children of Venezuela. While the government has attempted some measures of addressing the problem, such as monthly packages of food for sale, more still needs to be done to provide for the Venezuelan people.

As a result of the continued crisis in Venezuela, many have fled the country. As of 2018, two million people had already left Venezuela; without a doubt, numerous others have left since. For those who are awaiting refugee status or to be reunited with lost family members, UNICEF has created a safe place to help children with this difficult time.

The Happiness Plan

The “Happiness Plan” is a safe space for children that has been set up in a tent in the country of Peru. Filled with games, coloring pages and books, this tent provides an outlet for children to be children while awaiting their official entry into Peru. In addition to the fun activities, the “Happiness Plan” offers psychosocial support from professionals for children struggling with these difficult transitions they are facing.

Some of the children passing through the tent have been separated from their families. They are awaiting the chance to rejoin their families in Peru. Others are with some members of their nuclear family but had to leave the rest of their family and friends behind them in Venezuela. One survey taken by UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration stated that 73 percent of Venezuelan families in Tumbes, Peru, had to leave behind one or more of their children.

In such a dismal time for Venezuela, it is reassuring to know that organizations such as UNICEF and Plan International are implementing programs to help these children who have experienced such abrupt change. They will undoubtedly need physical and psychological support to heal from the trauma they have experienced in their home country.

Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr