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Politics in Venezuela
Venezuela is the most poverty-stricken country in Latin America. The nation’s position in poverty has led to Venezuelan citizens requiring aid from the United States, more so than any nation in Latin America. Some argue that poverty in Venezuela is mainly due to the politics in Venezuela. Notably, the politics within the country receive influence from both inside and outside parties. Below is an introduction to how the politics of Venezuela has influenced these seven facts about poverty in Venezuela.

7 Facts About Poverty in Venezuela

  1. The average person living in Venezuela lives on 72 cents per day.
  2. Inflation has decreased the value of the Venezuelan currency.
  3. Although it is rich in oil, it does not export enough of it to boost its economy.
  4. The U.S. has placed sanctions on Venezuelan trade, further accentuating poverty in Venezuela.
  5. Almost 5 million people have immigrated from Venezuela in the past 5 years because of the extreme poverty levels there.
  6. “Multidimensional poverty” affects 64.8% of homes in Venezuela (“multidimensional poverty” includes aspects of poverty other than just income).
  7. The income poverty rate is at 96%.

How Politics in Venezuela Plays a Role in Poverty

The President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has not allowed Venezuelans to receive aid from the U.S. The U.S. does not recognize Maduro as the legitimate president and that makes it much more difficult for Venezuelans to receive the aid that they desperately need. Also, Maduro has control over the country’s military. Therefore, people do not have much of a choice, but to follow him or to risk their lives.

Maduro has denied the U.S.’s foreign aid so that it does not go to the people suffering from poverty in Venezuela. He does not want to lose his power and if the aid is given to the people that oppose him, it could give them an edge that they need to overthrow him. Additionally, he mistrusts the U.S. because of incidents in the past. Maduro (and others) suspect that USAID worked alongside companies in the U.S. to cause a coup in Cuba. All of this was said to be under the guise of foreign aid.

A Hopeful Newcomer

Enter a new player — Juan Guaido. Guaido was elected by the National Assembly as president because Nicolás Maduro unconstitutionally kept the power of the presidency after his term was over. The U.S. officially recognizes Guaido as the president of Venezuela, even though he has no real power yet. Also, only around 20% of Venezuelan citizens approve of Maduro. He is a ruthless leader who allows for the occurrence of violence within his country.

Moving Forward in the Wake of COVID-19

Countries in Asia, such as Russia and China, are backing Maduro. However, the European Union is about to follow suit with many other nations and recognize Guaido as the President of Venezuela. The current state of the world has not helped any country, Venezuela is no exception. The country was already in crisis before the pandemic and now COVID-19 has made it even harder for them to get back on their feet.

With that said, hope is not lost. If there is any country with the capabilities to find a way to get the people of Venezuela what they need to survive, it is the U.S. The pandemic has caused people to take a hard look at the world around them and re-analyze many decisions. People all over are rising to the challenge and the Venezuelan crisis should be no different.

Moriah Thomas
Photo: Pixbay

Poverty in Venezuela
Venezuela was once a rich and stable country. Over the last few decades, Venezuela has fallen into financial and governmental trouble. In 1989, when rioting and looting polluted the streets due to increased petroleum prices, Venezuela began a spiral into debt. When Hugo Chávez became president in 1998, citizens became optimistic as he funded money into programs to assist the poor. Unfortunately, mismanagement allowed problems to persist. Within the last decade, poverty rates have risen dramatically. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Poverty in Venezuela

  1. The economy has created a nationwide crisis. As Venezuela’s economy collapses many programs are collapsing with it. The country is experiencing hyperinflation. Over the past three years, the annual inflation rate is 10,398%. Hyperinflation in Venezuela has increased the number of people living in severe poverty and barely surviving from day to day. A national survey in 2017 found that 87% of families live below the poverty line.
  2. The government retains full control of the economy. Since 1989, the Venezuelan government has retained full control of the economy. In 2003, the government introduced price and currency controls and it became the sole provider of bolivars. As a result, funds denied businesses access and banks could only assist specific organizations. Additionally, companies had to sell products below production costs and close stores, which caused a supply shortage and negatively affected the economy.
  3. Government information is experiencing censorship. Journalists, lawyers and medical professionals experienced detainment and imprisonment for exposing the poor conditions of their country. Although the poverty Venezuelans face is no secret, censorship hides the depths of the governmental and economic corruption, thus reducing the level of support that other countries offer. Venezuela ranked 173 out of 180 countries that Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index assessed for corruption. The lower the ranking, the more corruption in the government.
  4. Venezuela is experiencing a split government. In May 2018, Nicolás Maduro, the incumbent president of Venezuela, “won” a disputed re-election against Juan Guaidó, leader of the National Assembly. By the following June, the Organization of American States recognized Guaidó as President; Guaidó subsequently declared himself president on January 23, 2019. Blame for the free-fall of the economy lands on Maduro, but he holds all the military and refuses to relinquish power. Recognized by 50 other countries, Guaidó does not hold much authority on his own. As more becomes clear about the corruption that Venezuela experiences, Guaidó receives more assistance from other countries to help his people.
  5. Food and water shortages are at an all-time high. Since 2017, nearly two-thirds of Venezuelans reported losing an average of 25 pounds in the previous year; they refer to this as the “Maduro-diet” due to food and water shortages. These shortages have peaked with the COVID-19 emergency. Venezuela has 4,187 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 35 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. PAHO and UNICEF have provided relief by supplying medical equipment and COVID-19 tests and the U.N. has since stepped in to provide funds. When the global pandemic began, hospitals quickly found it difficult to care for patients while lacking running water. Additionally, sanctions that the U.S. put into place made access to food more difficult.
  6. Venezuela is experiencing medical shortages. Fernando Gomez is a 54-year-old man living in Venezuela. In an interview with The New Humanitarian Gomez said, “The government says wear masks, wash your hands often, and stay inside… but we don’t have water, we often don’t have electricity, and there are no masks.” Even before the pandemic, diseases such as measles, diphtheria and malaria rose. While there are proven vaccines and antibiotics for these diseases, shortages have led to high mortality rates from these illnesses. In the last five years, there also have been significant shortages of medical personnel and supplies, leaving Venezuela’s population at greater risk. PAHO, UNICEF and the U.N. are doing what they can to assist.
  7. Venezuela’s oil industry is collapsing. Petroleum was once a significant part of the Venezuelan economy; now it suffers from oil shortages at great cost to its people. Marcia Briggs, a reporter for Pulitzercenter.org, spent a day at a local Venezuelan gas station. The line stretched for miles and people would wait a day or more for fuel. Spending time in line means not working and earning wages. In 1998, the country produced 3.5 million barrels of oil a day but in 2002, when Petróleos De Venezuela went on strike against Chávez, he fired 19,000 workers. Since 2007, production has decreased dramatically and reached an all-time low in 2019.
  8. Although the minimum wage in Venezuela increased in 2020, it remains below a survivable level. In January 2020, Maduro increased the minimum wage from 300,000 bolivars an hour to 450,000 per hour; the equivalent of $5.45. In April of 2020, Maduro decided to increase the wage again by 77.7%. The minimum wage currently sits at 800,000 bolivars ($4.60). It is “only enough to buy just over a kilo of beef.” As the minimum wage continues increasing, there is hope that it will soon reach a survivable level.
  9. Venezuela experiences a lack of education. The education system has lost thousands of teachers due to underfunding. Some children are so malnourished that they lack the necessary energy to attend school. Other families lack the funds to pay for transportation to classes. U.N. experts say that an uneducated future will do nothing but perpetuate the crisis the country faces. Education is free, although finding enough people to direct the students’ education is a problem with no current solution.
  10. Venezuelans continue to flee their country. All of these problems have led to Venezuelans fleeing the country in hopes of a better future. There have been roughly 5 million migrants from Venezuela. Fleeing the country gives the migrants a better chance at survival but worsens the situation in their home country. Essential jobs that lack workers now have even fewer available people. Citizens who remain in Venezuela say they no longer feel safe in their country and they have lost all hope and trust in officials to fix the crisis.

Although poverty, corruption and violence have been the narrative of Venezuela for the last few decades, there is still hope that the tide will turn. In the time of a government battle, citizens now have more than two options. It used to be Maduro leaves or they do, but now there is a third option which is change with President Guaidó.

Fortunately, there are many groups assisting with child security, food and water relief, education and poverty in Venezuela. These continued efforts will hopefully impact poverty in Venezuela significantly.

Marlee Ingram
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

Poverty Rate of Venezuela
Venezuela, once expected to be one of the richest countries in South America, has been crippled by socialist dictators and now suffers from widespread poverty. In fact, 82% of the population lives in poverty. With the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela’s economy has become solely dependent on oil.

Venezuela has relied on high oil prices to bolster their exports and pay for importing basic goods, including food and medicine. However, with the price of oil dropping dramatically in the last few years, Venezuela’s economy has taken a major hit and caused drastic inflation. As inflation skyrocketed and political turmoil brewed, investors and businesses drained out of the country.

Currently, Venezuela leads the world with the highest inflation. In December of 2016, it reached a high of 800% inflation and has not significantly decreased since. According to the LA Times, it cost $150 to buy a dozen eggs in Venezuela in 2016. This hyperinflation has caused Venezuela’s currency, the Bolivar Fuerte, to depreciate. This has caused the poverty rate of Venezuela to jump to more than 80%.

 

Poverty in Venezuela

 

The face of poverty in Venezuela is also changing. With such a staggeringly high poverty rate, poverty now affects citizens with degrees who cannot find jobs and more urban people, in addition to the already rural poor.

Long lines at supermarkets have developed as people seek the most basic and necessary means of survival. According to CNBC, Venezuelans are eating two or fewer meals a day and around three-fourths of the population have watched their weight decrease throughout the years.

In 2016, President Nicolas Maduro increased the minimum wage by 40%. With inflation, this means that citizens who receive minimum wage earn just $67 a month. The explosive poverty rate and lack of proper government response have prompted protests, as this issue is now being seen as a clear violation of human rights.

However, opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez, his wife, Lilian Tintori and Capriles Radonski acknowledge the situation and have been fighting for a better Venezuela. A Venezuela with democratic power, basic goods and luxuries everyone can afford, a Venezuela with jobs for everyone, lower crime rates and better health care.

The high poverty rate in Venezuela has reached the attention of the world. Raising awareness has been part of finding hope for Venezuela. The hashtag #SOSVenezuela has been used over the last few years to protest corruption and has acted as a rallying cry to bring global attention to the people affected by Venezuela’s dire political situation.

Francis Hurtado

Photo: Google

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%. 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%).

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% deficit in basic medicines. The IMF has also forecasted a 720% increase in general prices this year, with another 2,200% 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% of the population cannot afford the food it needs. This is no surprise, when a staggering 72% 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 US 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

Economic Crisis in VenezuelaOn Saturday, May 14, Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, issued a state of emergency in response to widespread discontent that had risen throughout the country. Protests and calls for a reform in the government came about because of the historic economic crisis in Venezuela.

Since the beginning of 2015, inflation within the country has been on a steady increase. During the months of June and July, it began to accelerate upward. By the close of the year, Venezuela was left with an inflation rate of 180 percent, the highest in the world. This has led to deficiencies in food, medicine and hygiene products.

However, the recent explosion of economic inflation is only a symptom of deeper troubles within the economy that have been building for the past years. Many are criticizing Venezuela for failing to diversify in products and services. Gretchen Bakke of the New Yorker summarized the economic crisis in Venezuela using the adage, “putting all its eggs in one basket.”

Various occurrences have led Venezuela to the brink of economic collapse, but three in particular bear mentioning:

1. Venezuela’s Dependence on Oil as a Profitable Export

Petroleum products made up roughly 93 percent of the $63 billion in exports that Venezuela made in 2014. This is not surprising, since Venezuela is sitting on the largest proven oil reserves in the world. Historically, various Venezuelan presidents have used petroleum production and exports to increase development, yet they failed to diversify their economic productions. In the 1920s Venezuela registered a third of its GDP as agricultural products, but almost a century later, these products make up six percent of GDP and less than one percent of the country’s exports.

Its identity as an oil-producing state has served Venezuela well in the past, but the tide is turning. With lifted sanctions on Iranian petroleum and increased oil production in the United States, Canada and Iraq, petroleum prices have been driven down by a saturated global market. The New York Times reported a barrel of oil to be 70 percent cheaper now than it was two years ago.

2. Venezuela’s Dependence on Water as its Primary Electricity Source

Almost 80 percent of Venezuela’s electricity comes from hydroelectric power. The international community has recently been pushing for cleaner energy (that which does not rely on fossil fuels) and hydroelectricity is one way to achieve these goals. However, hydro-power can be problematic when water turns into a limited resource.

Venezuela has currently been suffering through a three-year drought which many are attributing to El Niño, an intermittent weather pattern that has been accentuated by the recent rise in global temperature. In addition to the normal problems that are generated by water shortages, Venezuela is now facing a shortened work week due to the rationing of electricity for the many shortages.

These newly-prescribed measures are criticized for accelerating the process of economic collapse, since workers now have a shortened period in which they can earn money to pay for the necessities of life.

3. Venezuela’s Unipolar Political System

For years, the socialist party has dominated the branches of the central government, and in the recent escalations of the economic crisis in Venezuela have caused the government to “become more authoritarian,” as the Council on Foreign Relations wrote.

In December of last year, the opposing party finally took control of one part of the government, The National Assembly. Though a referendum is being constructed to oust Maduro from his seat, very few immediate solutions are being proposed to relieve the collapsing economy.

The economic crisis in Venezuela is provoking protests throughout the country. Various citizens of the country told the Wall Street Journal that they have to stand for hours in line to receive a small portion of food for the day. These individuals have hopes to change the trajectory of their nation, and with the majority of the people on their side, they may still have time to do so.

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr

food_shortage_venezuela
Plagued by collapsing currency and the highest inflation rate in the world, Venezuelans are facing soaring prices and pervasive shortages in their nation. Although waves of food scarcity have troubled the country in the past, this time the food shortage in Venezuela has persisted for over a year and shelves are remaining bereft of many essential products. Citizens are unable to easily acquire food items such as corn flour, rice and coffee, as well as other basic products like detergent and toiletries. Forced to wait in line for hours on end for goods, middle and lower class people in Venezuela are reaching a breaking point.

An unfortunate consequence of this dwindling morale is a countrywide rise in supermarket raids. Videos shared on sites such as Youtube, Whatsapp and Facebook show looters ransacking local supermarkets when rare provisions like coffee and toilet paper hit the shelves.

If Venezuelan citizens wait in line for these products, there is a slim chance that they will be able to get them, making criminal actions extremely tempting. While some looters turn to violence in order to feed their families, others do so with the desire to profit off the crisis by selling the items on the black market.

Many find Venezuela’s predicament somewhat surprising, as it is an oil-exporting country – a characteristic, which usually points to economic prosperity. According to economist Asdrubal Oliveros, however, this oil production is simply not enough.

“Other than oil we produce close to nothing, and even oil production has decreased,” Oliveros said. “There is a lack of hard currency, and, in a country that imports everything, this becomes more evident with food scarcity.”

Native farmer Jesus Lopez agrees with Oliveros. “We used to produce rice and we had excellent coffee; now we produce nothing,” he says. “With the situation here people abandoned the fields.”

Lopez is referring to farmland seized by the Venezuelan government that now sits idle. Oliveros remarks on this government-owned land as well, noting that the seizure caused an overvalued exchange rate that destroyed agriculture because “it’s cheaper to import than it is to produce.”

The government’s potential role in the food shortages may explain why the supermarket raid footage is somewhat controversial. Incidences of supermarket raiding are largely covered up and major national news sources do not address the issue.

Footage of supermarket raids is shared on social media almost weekly, however, and posters maintain that the footage is authentic and emphasize their role as activists. Posting the violent raiding videos on the Internet raises awareness of the issue and allows Venezuelans to gain a perspective on the problem that is not cast in a pro-government light.

Although the violent videos are somewhat shocking, perhaps this shock value is what Venezuela and its citizens need in order to get the country back on track.

Katie Pickle

Sources: LA Times, The Guardian
Photo: TIME