In order to understand what is going on in Venezuela currently, one must understand Venezuela’s recent history. In 1999, a man named Hugo Chavez ran for president of Venezuela with the idea of socialism. He was voted the new president of Venezuela. Chavez then killed the country and most of the potential it had/has. One of the biggest things he did to destroy the country was transfer money to a foreign bank for his daughter, but this wasn’t his money; it was essentially all the money the country had. This led to inflation. The leading financial official in Venezuela did not believe in inflation, so he added more money to their economy, which is the one thing a country should not do during an inflation period. So, Venezuela’s inflation was and still is extreme. Venezuela rations its food and people have to wait in line for hours to get into the grocery store, where they’re never sure what they will actually find for food. It is less expensive to use Bolivares (Venezuelan currency) as toilet paper rather than purchasing and using actual toilet paper. People cannot afford to farm or start a company, meaning they can’t buy or sell things. As of April 24, 2017, it takes $4,700 Bolivares to make one dollar, but that changes everyday. There are no human rights. People, including children, are dying each day due to the lack of medication, food and the oppressive government.
Flash forward to today, Maduro is now president because of a fraudulent election. The Venezuelan government has different sectors of their government, much like the U.S. does. They have a judicial branch (like the supreme court) that is pro-Maduro (a.k.a. corrupt). Venezuela has a “National Assembly” which is their form of a check and balance. The National Assembly is the voice of the citizens of Venezuela. The judicial branch told the National Assembly that they have no political power, which means that the government would entirely be pro-Maduro and there would be no checks, balances or citizen’s say for the people. This caused a giant uproar among Venezuelan citizens. After a couple of days, the judicial branch took back their decision, but it was too late. The people believe that Maduro is heading toward a dictatorship and they are calling for his resignation. Another “sign” that Maduro is trying for a dictatorship is the fact that he told his political opponent, Henrique Capriles, that he is not allowed to be involved in politics for 15 years. This has caused even more protests and riots.
On April 19, thousands upon thousands of Venezuelans gathered in Caracas and other big cities in Venezuela for what they called, the “Mother of all Marches.” The turnout was incredible, but with all dictators, the protest turned violent as people approached law enforcement. Twenty-six Venezuelans died during this march because of the police brutality they encountered. People are dying because the police are shooting protesters, as well as using the same types of riot equipment that was used on Standing Rock protesters. There are pictures of people fleeing to a nearby river to avoid the pepper spray and other chemicals used against protesters. The people are calling for Maduro’s resignation, but he’s not giving in and neither are the people. The protests and the violence progresses everyday.
In my opinion, it is crazy that the United States is not doing anything. I’m not saying we should go to war with Venezuela because we shouldn’t. I do think that we should cut off all ties with the economy because all of the money Venezuela is making off oil is going to the government, not to the people. This is looking very reminiscent of “The Hunger Games,” where the people start rebelling against their government and the people are up against the police. If we do not help or even simply recognize what is happening and show awareness, the death tolls will go up, there will be more violence and the dictator will win.
This issue has been a personal issue for me, as many of my friends here in Ecuador are immigrants from Venezuela continue to run from their government and the oppression their country is facing. I spend time with them watching the news and worrying if their loved ones are safe. I have talked to my Venezuelan friends and asked what they would want the United States to do to help the people of Venezuela. My friend Leo said the United States could cut off all ties with the Venezuelan government financially, so they have no resources. My friend Fabiola said there are many ways to help Venezuela and as individuals [of the U.S.], we can help. She said as individuals, we can spread the “información” that is circulating the internet and emphasize these images of repression that the government is trying to hide, are real images. She believes that our government should help the pediatric medicines, baby formula, food and supplies for adults. And as for political organizations, they can help the demonstrations and try to help keep peace and eradicate conflict.
Savannah Bynum can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org