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COVID-19 and the Venezuelan crisisOf all households in Venezuela, 35% depend on financial support from family members working overseas. According to local economic researcher Asdrúbal Oliveros, remittances to Venezuela will suffer a heavy blow as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe effect on the global economy. With an estimated $2 billion decrease in remittances, the health of millions of Venezuelans is in serious danger due to the combined effects of COVID-19 and the Venezuelan Crisis.

The World Bank believes the pandemic will cause a 20% decrease in global remittances, the biggest drop in recent years. With 90% of citizens in Venezuela living in poverty, the drastic fall in remittances and oil prices spell trouble for countless people. Furthermore, the unprepared Venezuelan healthcare system has struggled to control the pandemic.

Despite numerous U.N. groups imploring for money-transfer businesses to make international transfers cheaper, Venezuela’s foreign exchange policy and volatile economic system are difficult to reform. “Venezuelan remitters” are instead left using unnecessarily complex methods to send money back home.

The Venezuelan Government Under Nicolás Maduro

In 2019, the Venezuelan government politicized humanitarian aid when it vilified the U.S. government’s foreign aid as the beginning stage of a U.S. invasion. However, the government has finally acknowledged the long-denied humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro has accepted the deliverance of aid after negotiations with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Subsequently, the United Nations declared it was increasing its efforts to aid Venezuela.

Despite the progress made, politics continue to negatively affect potential aid. According to Miguel Pizarro, a U.N. Representative, the political influence leaves many without fundamental necessities. Pizarro explains, “If you demonstrate and raise your voice and go to the streets, you do not have food, medicine, water or domestic gas.” Pizarro continues, “Eighty percent of Venezuelan households are supplied with gas by the state. If you become active in the political arena, they take away that right.”

Sharp declines in oil value, numerous embargoes globally and negligent economic policy largely caused the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela. Since 2014, the nation’s GDP has fallen by 88%, with overall inflation rates in the millions. A 2019 paper published by economic researchers at the Center for Economic and Policy Research attributed medicine, food and general supply deficits in 2018 to the deaths of at least 40,000. According to findings from the Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Health and Life, a scarcity in medicine puts over 300,000 Venezuelans in peril.

Dr. Julio Castro, director of Doctors for Health in Venezuela, says “People don’t have money to live. I think it’s probably a worst-case scenario for people in Venezuela.” Despite recent increases in aid and medicine from U.N. operations and the IFRC, the Venezuelan struggle persists.

Venezuelan Healthcare Amid COVID-19

Most of the Venezuelan population can only afford to receive aid from public hospitals. These public hospitals often experience persistent deficits in necessary supplies. A study conducted by Doctors for Health indicated that 60% of public facilities frequently face power outages and water shortages.

In response to this, the Venezuelan government authorized $20 million in healthcare aid, which will be administered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a territorial agency of the World Health Organization. They will use the capital to develop COVID-19 testing and to obtain personal protective equipment (Ex: masks, gloves, etc).

According to Luis Francisco Cabezas of local healthcare nonprofit Convite, a recent study identified a worrisome struggle. Data indicated that roughly six in 10 people had reported trouble obtaining medication for chronic illnesses. The problem has only worsened since the pandemic.

Local Nonprofits Redirect Efforts Toward Venezuelan Crisis

Numerous nonprofits in the country have responded to COVID-19 and the ongoing Venezuelan crisis by shifting their efforts. A director for Caritas, a Catholic charity, says the ongoing economic disaster compelled his organization to prioritize humanitarian work over its original mission of civil rights advocacy.

Similarly, Robert Patiño leads a nonprofit civil rights group, Mi Convive, which shifted to humanitarian work in 2016. Since its inception, the organization has directed its efforts to child nutrition. Through the group Alimenta La Solidaridad, Mi Convive has opened over 50 community kitchens in Venezuela, feeding over 4,000 kids weekly.

Although the efforts by Venezuelan nonprofits have aided thousands, it is not enough. COVID-19 and the Venezuelan crisis need to be in worldwide focus until the government can reliably provide for its citizens. The work of numerous good samaritans can only reach so many people, and their work is constantly hindered by “Chavistas,” a group of Venezuelans who are loyal to President Nicolas Maduro’s government. Mi Convive’s Robert Patiño claims the radicals have been known to go as far as withholding food boxes from areas where the nonprofit is trying to begin new programs. The humanitarian emergency in Venezuela must be appropriately addressed, for the livelihood of millions of people are at stake.

Carlos Williams
Photo: Flickr

venezuelan crisisVenezuela is currently facing a political and economic crisis. Along with severe economic factors such as food shortages, lowered oil production and inflation, there are also two men who claim to be president. Socialist leader Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó both claim to be president after widely recognized fraudulent elections in 2018. While Venezuela struggles with choosing its president, the country is falling apart. Thankfully, one NGO is working to help people impacted by the Venezuelan crisis.

A Political Crisis

The 2018 election caused confusion and turmoil in Venezuela. Nicolás Maduro was elected after the death of his socialist predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Many Venezuelans blamed Maduro for the struggling economy since he was first elected in April 2013. To ensure his reelection in 2018, Maduro’s administration blocked many opposition party members from running against him. Some went to jail or into exile. The opposition as well as the people regarded the election as fraudulent and rigged.

After the election, the National Assembly claimed that the presidency was void. National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó appointed himself acting president. In response, Maduro created a new National Constituent Assembly with only government loyalists as members. The military and police still support president Maduro and continue to do so as he grants them raises and grants top members important roles in the economy. However, around 50 countries, including the U.S., recognize Guaidó as the acting president.

Economic Crises

Throughout the history of Venezuela, oil production has been central in the economy.  Oil exports make up 95% of Venezuela’s export revenue and 50% of its GDP. However, within the past two decades, oil production has steadily dropped. Venezuela’s GDP decreased by double digits for the third year in a row in 2018, reaching its new low. This has led to hyperinflation, which is now more than 80,000% annually. Many people blame Maduro for the drop in production due to his appointment of inexperienced leaders and his lack of investment in the industry. Importantly, the drop in oil production has led to decreased funding for education, infrastructure and medical care. Along with hyperinflation, these factors have created hardship for the working class.

Not only did oil production drop during Maduro’s first term, but he also tried to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor by capping prices on goods to make them more affordable to the working class. This policy backfired, as many companies ceased production because of lack of profit. This resulted in food and goods shortages across the country, leading to 3.7 million Venezuelans being undernourished. As a result of this and the lack of adequate healthcare, water and education, many Venezuelans are fleeing the country. According to the U.N., 3.9 million people have left Venezuela to seek a better life.

Helping Those Impacted by the Venezuelan Crisis

The South American Initiative, founded in 2016, is a NGO addressing the Venezuelan crisis. It helps by providing resources for the impoverished and starving people of Venezuela. This initiative has held major campaigns, such as the “Help Venezuelan Orphans” and “Help Hospitals and Children” campaigns. In all, it has helped more than 10,000 people. In order to provide a stable and lasting food source for hospitals and children, the South American Initiative has invested in large agricultural development. This has allowed the organization to distribute 70,786 meals to people in need. The South American Initiative has also utilized donations to provide medicine to those who need it in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan crisis is not only an economic issue but also a humanitarian issue, as people face unlivable conditions. Neither Venezuelan leader has the means to provide for people’s healthcare, food, water and education. This makes the work of organizations like the South American Initiative central in addressing the needs of those affected by the Venezuelan crisis.

– Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr

Venezuelan Crisis
For decades Venezuela’s government and economy have struggled significantly. Entering Venezuela into a search engine will generate links to a multitude of foundations attempting to relieve the Venezuelan Crisis. What is the Venezuelan Crisis and how is the U.S. reacting?

The South American country’s history is full of political and social inequity. Venezuelan leadership has been rocky at best since Simon Bolivar led the country to independence more than 200 years ago. Despite his original constitutional implementations of extremely strict rules such as capital punishment for any public officer guilty of stealing 10 pesos or more from the government, the country quickly fell into corruption.

History of Corruption

The disorder apparent in Venezuela’s contemporary governmental and social climates stems from centuries ago when inefficient leadership set the precedent. The country did not institute a democratic election until 1945. That is more than 130 years after its founding and establishment of the civilian government. Turmoil ensued as Marcos Perez Jimenez, a military figure, overthrew the first elected President Romulo Gallegos within eight months. Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabel, in turn, ousted Jiminez and leftist Romulo Betancourt subsequently took power. This period of rapid regime change defined by government instability and disorganization instilled a distrust that still resonates in the hearts of Venezuelans today.

The trend of unreliable leaders continued until the late 1960s and 1970s when a beacon of light emerged. This age saw much-needed transparency in public assets, contrasting with previous leaders who were heavily corrupt. During this time, other South American countries even began to restructure their governments after the Venezuelan model. However, Venezuela lived this era of tranquility for only a short time because of one man: President Jaime Lusinchi.

Lusinchi served as President from 1984 to 1994. Even in the era of Nicolas Maduro, he stands as the epitome of Venezuelan corruption. In his 10 years as the country’s leader, a corrupt security exchange program stole an alleged $36 billion from the government. Additionally, many accused Lusinchi of stealing from the National Horse Racing Institute to promote the campaign of his successor, Carlos Andres Perez.

Venezuela’s economy functions almost solely on oil exports. The volatility of international oil demands, a market characterized by consistent inconsistency, historically parallels with the state of the Venezuelan market. A booming oil stock in an oil-dependent country naturally creates extraordinary temptation, a temptation that Lusinchi gravely fell into.

Making the national situation worse, the money Lusinchi stole from the government came from a temporary oil surge. Therefore, when oil prices normalized, the economy faced a much more difficult catching up than it would have otherwise.

For many Venezuelans, Lusinchi reopened recent wounds concerning government distrust. This fueled a wave of anger that the famous populist Hugo Chavez harnessed. Lower-class Venezuelans blamed government corruption and greed of the elite for the country’s extreme economic and social issues. The support of this large base played an important role in electing Chavez as President in 1998.

Today’s Dictatorship

To understand the current state of affairs under Maduro, it is vital to understand Chavez’s impact on the Venezuelan Crisis. Chavez’s policies raised (and still raise) enormous controversy as he led using traditionally socialist policies. Under these policies, Venezuela saw a 50 percent reduction in poverty and a dramatic reduction in the unemployment rate.

These policies were only achievable because of a 2004 soar in oil prices in the middle of Chavez’s presidency. His excessive spending on categories like food subsidies, education and health care was only possible through this boom. To get the Venezuelan people to reelect him, Chavez did not scale back these programs to match declining oil prices and set up his country to fail.

In 2014 Venezuelan oil prices crashed, leaving the economy in shambles as Chavez’s programs quickly racked up an enormous deficit. This also started the massive inflation of the Venezuelan bolivar that the country still struggles with today. Following Chavez’s death, Nicolas Maduro gained power in 2014, taking on the responsibility for the economy and deficit. Maduro failed to diversify the oil-rigged economy. This caused the petrostate to fall back into extreme poverty, currently wielding a poverty rate of around 90 percent, double what it was in 2014.

The Council on Foreign Relations quotes Venezuela as “the archetype of a failed petrostate,” describing it as a sufferer of the infamous Dutch disease. The transition to this began back in 1976 when then-President, Carlos Andres Perez, nationalized the oil industry creating the state-owned ‘Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). Chavez’s mismanagement of this company led it to render weak profits. Internal issues such as insider business practices and drug-trafficking also littered the business with corruption. Chavez then sanctioned a series of other national businesses and foreign-owned assets tilting the country towards extreme socialism.

This progression of increased nationalization slowly opened the doors for Maduro to initiate authoritative rule. He abused this power in multiple facets which had devastating consequences on the well-being of the country and its people.

Early in his rule, Maduro placed his supporters in the Venezuelan Supreme Court and replaced the National Assembly with his own Constituent Assembly. Through this cunning, undemocratic move, he essentially eliminated all political opposition and erased any check on his power. This allowed him to pass extremely contentious policy such as the abuse of food importation. Because of Maduro’s extremely poor operation of a socialist economy, hyperbolic inflation rates currently plague the country. While the political elites operate on a 10:1 rate, the rest of the country uses around a 12,000:1.

To make matters worse, Maduro delegated food commerce to the military which has access to the significantly decreased exchange rate. To make enormous profits, it buys food at the 10:1 rate and then sells it domestically at a 12:000:1 rate. The 2017 statistic shows that Venezuelans lost an average of 27 pounds, highlighting the horror of Maduro’s corruption.

What is the US’s position in all of this?

As expected, the U.S. with its long history of an anti-socialist stance disapproves greatly of the Maduro suppressive regime. There is historical friction between the two, which emerged again during Chavez’s time in a battle between capitalist and socialist ideals.

After Maduro’s reelection, the Trump administration grew furious and decided to use aid as a tool against the dictator. In an act of defiance against the U.S., Maduro rejected all supplies from the capitalist power. The U.S. decided to use this move to its advantage, pledging to send copious amounts of humanitarian aid and urging Venezuela’s officials to defy their President’s orders.

As Dylan Baddour states in his article for The Atlantic, “Those who support the mission say that soldiers will be motivated by the impact Venezuela’s crisis is having on their families to switch sides and affect a peaceful transfer of power.” However, not everyone supports this mission because of the U.S.’s bittersweet past regarding Latin American intervention.

Citizens in countries like Chile, Nicaragua and Panama certainly are in living memory of times when American involvement only made matters worse. But as Baddour writes, in a situation as dire as Venezuela’s during the Venezuelan Crisis, “the world’s most powerful country showing up at Venezuela’s border with truckloads of food and medicine is much better than what it has done in the past.”

There is, of course, a concern that Venezuela could transform into the next Syria — where the majority of the population suffers because of one belligerent leader. But if the U.S. takes a proper humanitarian route with its aid, unlike previous attempts, it could do more help than harm. Hopefully, Venezuela will accept aid and transfer power peacefully and efficiently to someone that does not endorse such heinous policies. Until then, the U.S. simply providing its current amount of humanitarian aid is a positive step in the right direction to relive some of the effects of the Venezuelan Crisis.

Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr


Venezuela is currently in the midst of a humanitarian aid crisis spanning nearly ten years. As a developing country in South America, Venezuela has rich natural resources but suffers from an often harsh government that has not been cooperative with foreign NGOs in the past. Though NGOs operating in and outside of Venezuela are key to solving serious dilemmas in the areas of health, human trafficking, and education, the important thing in solving the crisis is an improvement of the strained relationship between the country’s government and foreign input.

The Crisis

The Venezuelan Crisis began in 2010 under the presidency of Hugo Chavez and has continued into the second six-year-term of current president Nicolas Maduro. The Venezuelan crisis has its roots in the country’s rich oil reserves, which under encouragement from Chavez (1999-2013), composed the majority of Venezuela’s earnings from exported goods.

Social programs were created with the influx of oil money, but when oil prices dropped in 2014 these programs were scaled back, and many Venezuelans began to struggle. Inflation has continued to rise steadily since 2012 and currently, Venezuela has the highest rate of inflation globally at 18,000% as of April 2018.

The political landscape of Venezuela has been tumultuous, yet ironically rigid in the transfer of power from Chavez to Maduro. Being hand-selected by Chavez to succeed him before his own passing, Maduro’s leadership has been marked with rumors of corruption, election fraud, and instances of police brutality against protestors and the unlawful imprisonment of political rivals.

As the government continues to deny foreign aid and refuses to allow foreign companies to invest in resident NGOs, the situation is becoming a humanitarian crisis worsened by the inability of aid organizations to alleviate the suffering of Venezuelan citizens. Despite these setbacks, multiple agencies are working hard to help the people living in Venezuela.

Due to extreme poverty caused by the Crisis, many Venezuelans are left vulnerable to human trafficking, an issue running rampant in this region of Central America. Those abducted are usually women and children, though men are taken as well. In often cases, the victims have moved from a rural area to an urban location, lured by the promise of higher earnings.

The Venezuelan government has done very little to eliminate this serious issue. The U.S. Department of Labor noted in 2017 that the Venezuelan government did not report any data whatsoever on human trafficking, and did little in the past year to combat the issue besides the arrest of seven individuals involved in human smuggling.

Venezuelans also face police brutality, lack of hospitals and medicine, and a nationwide shortage of food and clean water. As thousands of refugees pour out of the country, foreign NGOs are becoming more desperate to help. Some NGOs have banded together in order to fight the Crisis.

Strength in Numbers

The most significant humanitarian cooperative spearheading foreign relief efforts in Venezuela is Cuatro Por Venezuela, a Houston-based collective of 12 NGOs working together to fight the humanitarian aid crisis. The collective utilizes the resources of a vast web of partners and NGOs operating in Texas, Florida, and Chile.

By utilizing volunteers to deliver food, medicine, and other supplies, Cuatro Por Venezuela is able to work with NGOs in Venezuela to help them assist those in need. Though unable to fund resident NGOs, Cuatro Por Venezuela can still provide supplies and volunteers to Venezuela’s own humanitarian operations.  Cuatro Por Venezuela assisted nearly 100 humanitarian organizations and medical facilities for 14 states across the nation.

Though Venezuela’s government seems likely to deny foreign aid for the foreseeable future, the Venezuelan Crisis can still be alleviated by the collective efforts of NGOs in and outside this central American nation. Cuatro Por Venezuela represents the beneficial results produced when cooperation occurs between humanitarian groups.

– Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr