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