By: Isabel Jolicoeur
Venezuela is home to one of the biggest oil reserves in the world, yet the citizens of Venezuela are starving. Starving to the extent that they are ransacking food stores as well as hunting dogs, cats, and pigeons for food. According to a recent study by Simón Bolívar University, 87% of Venezuelans now say that they do not have enough money to buy food.
Numerous factors play into Venezuela’s economic crisis. Venezuela relies on oil for 95% of its export revenue. Therefore, the drop in oil prices has made the Venezuelan economy plummet. Also, Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, is already inflated at the world’s highest and is predicted to more than double in 2016. Also, the government has confiscated over 1,200 national businesses, which has had a negative impact on national production. Finally, Venezuela is in debt and on the verge of default, owing approximately $120 billion to foreign creditors, $7 billion of which is due at the end of this year.
In addition, to add more fuel to the fire, last spring, the levels of the Guri dam, which provides two-thirds of the country’s electricity, receded. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has rationed the electricity at shopping malls, changed the time zone to allow for more light during working hours, and urged women to stop using hair dryers to save electricity. Maduro has also limited the work week to save energy, making it even harder for the people of Venezuela to make money for food.
Even though President Maduro has declared the country to be in a state of emergency, the government is at a stalemate, and unable to fix the problem. In December of 2015, the opposition party, the Democratic Unity Party (MUD), won the majority in the legislative elections. However, immediately after the elections, President Maduro filled the Supreme Court with new justices. Therefore, MUD’s 60% majority in the assembly remains insufficient to remove any Supreme Court justices and the newly appointed justices can now overturn MUD’s legislation.
At the end of August, the largest of many protests this year occurred in the streets of Caracas, the nation’s capital. The citizens of Venezuela demand that the current government under Maduro be overthrown. However, the government seems to be punishing opposing parties. A few days before the protest, Daniel Ceballos, an opposition party leader on house arrest, was placed into a jail cell, accused of “inciting violence.”
The government also does not want the international community to see what is taking place. Miami Herald reporter, Jim Wyss, was detained by immigration when he attempted to fly into Caracas to report on the protest. The Committee to Protect Journalists stated that Venezuela denied entry of six journalists from around the world, all of whom wanted to cover the protest.
The world is aware of the crisis in Venezuela, the question now is, what to do next? President Maduro does not want help from the international community, and has rejected assistance from humanitarian agencies. President Barack Obama does not want to overstep his boundaries, especially after a comment from President Maduro reacting to the 2014 sanction against Venezuelan government officials for violating the rights of protestors. The Obama administration has discussed partnerships’ with neighboring countries such as Brazil and Columbia to help Venezuela, but nothing has taken place. Even though Venezuela does not want the help, it needs it, and the world just seems to be sitting back, watching the mess unfold.