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

Economic and Political Collapse

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

High Dropout Rates and Limited Faculty Members

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

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

Lack of Food, Water, Electricity and Supplies

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

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

Lack of Intellectual Freedom

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

Solutions

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

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

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

Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

inflation in Venezuela

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

Origins of Depreciation

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

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

Worsening Factors

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

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

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

Qualifications for Hyperinflation

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

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

Alleviating Inflation

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

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

Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

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

Fruitful Origins

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

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

The Fall

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

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

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

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

Lasting Effects

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

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

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

A Way Out

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

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

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

Venezuelans Fleeing
As the beneficiary of the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela was once the wealthiest nation in Latin America. However, in 2014, the economy began to collapse. The Bolivar, its currency, has gone into free fall, leaving millions unable to afford even the most basic necessities. According to Bloomberg’s Café con leche index, a cup of coffee today costs the same as 1,800 cups in January 2018. As food and health care become more difficult to come by, many Venezuelans are faced with the decision of struggling to get by or fleeing the country.

Why Flee?

Every day, thousands of Venezuelans leave their country in search of safety and stability, many of them arriving in Colombia. The International Rescue Committee has been supporting families in need in Cúcuta, a border city, since April 2018.

Venezuela is millions in debt while the only commodity that the country relies on is oil. Unfortunately, the value of oil has plummeted. In 2014, the price of oil was about $100 a barrel. Then several countries started to pump too much oil as new drilling technology could dredge up what was previously inaccessible, but businesses globally were not buying more gasoline. Too much oil caused the global price to drop to $26 in 2016. Today the price hovers around $50, which means that Venezuela’s income has been cut in half.

At the same time, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s hostility towards foreign business has created a corporate exodus. Companies such as United, General Motors and Pepsi have left entirely and unemployment in Venezuela could reach 25 percent this year. To try and keep up, Maduro has raised the minimum wage three times in 2019 in order to provide a little short-term relief to the poor. Currently, the minimum wage is at 18,000 bolivars per month, which is around $6.70 U.S.

How Many Venezuelans Have Left?

According to the U.N., more than three million people have already left Venezuela since the crisis began, and that number is increasing at a rapid rate. Approximately one million people, several lacking official documentation, have gone to neighboring Colombia. However, Peru is the second most popular destination country for Venezuelan refugees, with over 500,000. Ecuador follows, with over 220,000, Argentina with over 130,000, Chile with over 100,000 and Brazil with 85,000 immigrants.

By the end of 2019, the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country should reach 5.3 million. Nearly 300,000 children have fled the homes and lives they once knew, and approximately 10 percent of the country’s total population has already left.

The Way Out

The majority of those fleeing Venezuela do so on foot, and the road begins close to Cúcuta. Many people pay smugglers to use a trocha, which is an illegal border crossing through a river. On the Colombian side of the border has become a huge open-air market for all the things that people cannot get in Venezuela anymore. Vendors advertise medicines and cigarettes, candy and phone minutes for people to call home.

Sadly, some do not make the journey on foot. In Cúcuta, the temperature can hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, on other parts of the route, the road climbs to 10,000 feet above sea level and temperature can drop below freezing. Walking this route takes approximately 32 days. The mountain pass, La Nevera, translates to the Refrigerator. Aid groups and residents have opened their homes and set up shelters along the path. However, the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country has surpassed the number of shelters available along the way, making space for only the lucky few.

The Impact

The emotional wellbeing of children who have fled Venezuela is of high concern. Sometimes traveling alone, boys and girls disrupt their education and are in great danger of falling behind in school and never catching up again. On the contrary, some parents leave their children behind when they leave the country. These children often gain material benefits from their parents’ migration, because sending hard currency to relatives provides greater access to food, medicine and other lacking necessities.

Furthermore, tensions between Venezuelans fleeing the country and citizens of other countries is often high. Colombia has had to reach out to the international community for help in dealing with the influx of migrants. Hospitals and elementary schools in Cúcuta have been overwhelmed, and administrators complain about the central government’s failure to reimburse them for the cost of caring for migrants. The national government has suspended the issuance of temporary visas, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has promised $30 million in assistance.

In Ecuador, anti-immigrant sentiments reached a highpoint when a Venezuelan allegedly stabbed to death his pregnant Ecuadorian girlfriend, Diana Ramirez Reyes, in front of police and scared residents of the city of Ibarra. Since then, President Lenin Moreno decreed a tougher immigration policy that requires incoming Venezuelans to present a document certifying they had a clean criminal record in Venezuela. However, such documents are costly to obtain in Venezuela.

Similarly, Peru and Chileans have developed hesitation toward Venezuelans fleeing the country. People cannot renew work permits in Peru and as of 2018, the country decided to stop issuing them. A recent survey in Chile found that many natives disapprove of the number of immigrants coming in. Seventy-five percent of those responding to the survey thought that the number of immigrants was excessive.

Who is Helping?

Since April 2018, the IRC has been working in Cúcuta supporting Venezuelans and vulnerable Colombians with specialized services for women and children, cash assistance and health care. Aid organizations and families are also working to help immigrants along the route. The Colombian Red Cross has a small aid station on the outskirts of Pamplona, a city in Colombia’s Norte de Santander region.

The U.S. government has also helped by providing about $200 million in humanitarian aid to address the crisis in the region. Most of this money has gone to Colombia as do the majority of Venezuelans fleeing the country.

UNICEF has appealed for $69.5 million to meet the needs of uprooted children from Venezuela and those living in host and transit communities across the LAC region. It is working with national and local governments, host communities and partners to ensure access to safe drinking water, sanitation, protection, education and health services for Venezuelans fleeing the country.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

 

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

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

How Conflict in Venezuela is Affecting the Poor

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

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

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

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

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

Project HOPE

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

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

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

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

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

Water Quality in VenezuelaThe Latin American country of Venezuela is located in the north of South America. Mostly known for its tropical climate thanks to its bordering the Caribbean sea, this country has been dealing with some concerning political changes for the past few decades.

Ex-president Hugo Chavez took hold of Venezuela in 1999 and handed over rule to Nicolas Maduro before his death, in 2013. The country has functioned under an authoritarian form of government for the past two decades.

With an oil revenue based economy, Venezuela was once considered one of the richest countries in Latin America. But in the year 2014, the country saw itself submerged in an economic crisis after oil prices fell in the economic market. As a result, resources of all types are now lacking in the country. Citizens struggle every day to get food and clean water for their families, electricity in their homes, medicine and other basic necessities to live. The lack of resources has lead to a humanitarian crisis caused, partly, by the government. In spite of the negative impact that Chavez had on Venezuela throughout his regime, one thing he managed to improve was water quality in the country. Investments towards social programs and sanitation helped improve the quality of water.

Chavez’s initiatives, though, failed in the long run. After Chavez’s death Maduro tried to solve the issue and has continued to try for three years now, but the government’s unresponsive officials have not helped to improve the situation.

Water quality in Venezuela has become an important issue that needs to be solved fast. The problem is to the point where not only is water not widely accessible to all citizens, but some of the water that is available has become contaminated and polluted. As awareness has increased so has the knowledge that Venezuela is in need of help to eradicate Maduro’s regime, secure human rights for all, and provide food and good water quality to its citizens. There is hope as Unicef, Chamos Charity, and more non-profit organizations are working every day with the citizens of Venezuela to help improve their way of life.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Maduro_Venezuela
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro currently faces a referendum for his removal from office. Last Thursday, 15 nations from the Organization of American States (OAS) called for procedures to begin after an earlier meeting where they discussed Venezuela’s possible suspension from the OAS.  The question is now, will Maduro’s removal actually benefit the poor in Venezuela?

Maduro’s Struggles 

In May, President Maduro declared a 60-day state of emergency in response to growing food and medicine shortages. A monthly food basket in his country now costs 14 times more than the average monthly income at minimum wage.

Maduro’s predicament is partly inherited from his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Until his death in 2013, Chavez had used oil revenues to fund large-scale social programs in healthcare, housing, food and education.

However, by doing so Chavez sacrificed the economic diversity that might have helped sustain the country’s fight against poverty.

Chavez and Poverty Reduction

Chavez achieved several milestones for the poor in Venezuela. From 1999 to 2011, extreme poverty fell from 23.4 to 8.5 percent. GDP per capita was increased more than twofold (from $4,105 to $10,810), and unemployment was cut in half (14.5 to 7.6 percent).

Chavez also dismissed more than one-third of Petróleos de Venezuela’s (PDVSA) technical specialists for less skilled but loyal supporters.

The price controls Chavez implemented to protect the poor from high food and healthcare costs are now returning to haunt the country. With smaller margins for profit, industries have cut back on production, leading to a shortage of goods and an ever-higher dependency on imports.

For example, the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation announced in April that it suffers an 80 percent deficit in basic medicines. The IMF has also forecasted a 720 percent increase in general prices this year, with another 2,200 percent spike expected in 2017.

Still Not Enough

All of this makes the Venezuelan people hungry—and not just for political change. A study by Simon Bolivar University in Caracas has shown that up to 87 percent of the population cannot afford the food it needs. This is no surprise when a staggering 72 percent of monthly wages are spent on food alone.

Also, violence is on the rise. Venezuela’s murder rate has risen from 25 per 100,000 in 2009 to 45.1 in 2011—higher than Columbia and Mexico. Though there is no significant presence of drug cartels, leftist political violence is targeting citizens with opposition views.

The violence occurs regardless of social class. One professor assaulted on a Caracas bus commented that “it wasn’t rich people riding on the bus—it was poor people trying to get home from work.”

How the U.S. Can Help 

Nevertheless, the U.S. is still Venezuela’s largest trading partner. Among its imports are refined crude oil, ethers, soybeans, and an array of machinery and technology. A total of $10.1 billion in imports was recorded in 2014.

Venezuela is, therefore, a country to watch for humanitarian aid. In June, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a dialog to ease tensions with Maduro’s opposition, including a vote against the suspension proposed by OAS.

Humanitarian aid may be one way the U.S. can help end the crisis in Venezuela while promoting democratic governance. But only time will tell if Maduro’s removal will favor the poor in Venezuela.

Alfredo Cumerma

Photo: Flickr