Venezuela is facing a very uncertain and troubling future. The once prosperous South American country is staggering under the weight of President Nicolas Maduro’s oppressive regime.
Maduro became president four years ago, after the death of Hugo Chavez. He has steadfastly continued the socialist economic policies of his predecessor. Also, he has been as stringent, if not more so, against any who opposed him.
Now, the results of state-controlled production and distribution are coming to a head. Unemployment in Venezuela is topping 25 percent. Inflation is at an astronomical 720 percent, in 2017. Economic forecasts speculate that inflation could reach an unbelievable 2,068 percent, in 2018!
Thus, people either are not working at all, or what they earn is worth next to nothing. In response, the Maduro regime recently announced a 60 percent hike in the minimum wage.
With an additional food stamp hike, that brings the country’s wage to 200,021 bolivares per month. …The total monthly wage is equivalent to about $46.70
A Humanitarian Crisis
When people are unable to work, and when wages earned are worthless, a humanitarian crisis is sure to follow. Venezuela is witnessing this first hand.
The conditions in the beautiful nation have degenerated to an astonishingly dismal level. Just in the past year, more than 75 percent of the people in Venezuela have lost an average of 19 pounds each. Worse yet:
The infant mortality rate has alarmingly risen in the past few years to 18.6 per 1,000 live births — above Syria’s rate of 15.4.
Contributing to this appalling figure is the estimate that over 85 percent of necessary medication are simply unavailable, in Venezuela.
Unrest and Violence Escalating
Civil unrest and violent protests are nothing new in Venezuela. During most of Chavez’s reign, these were virtually annual events.
However, this round of protests, now six weeks old and still going, are the worst yet. The latest reports put the death toll at 28 and climbing. Riots, where unarmed civilians are facing armed military, are seen on, an almost, daily basis. Over 1,500 people have been detained by the government in response.
President Maduro blames the destructive and deadly protests on outside influences, such as the U.S. government. He claims this interference is to blame for the social upheaval. The people of Venezuela do not agree.
The Cupboards Are Bare
In the wake of hyperinflation and massive unemployment, shops and stores in the country are unable to restock inventories. Grocery stores have more bare shelves than anything else. As a result, desperate people are vandalizing shops to take whatever they can, in order to survive.
Shop owners are doing the best they can to combat such destruction. One such owner, Yadira Castro, is installing a “thick steel door with welded reinforced plates” to secure the entrance. This was after looters recently pried open her door and emptied it of food items and cigarettes.
Business Is Being Nationalized and Negotiated Away
Recently, General Motors announced it was shutting down its operations in Venezuela in the wake of the seizure of its plant by the Maduro regime in Valencia, on April 19, 2017. That is not the worst news.
Citgo, the government-run oil company, is being used as collateral for a 1.5 billion dollar loan from Russia. In the deal, at least 50 percent of Citgo is at risk should Venezuela default on the loan. This is most troubling for the Western Hemisphere. It could mean Russia will become the largest controlling interest in a major oil company in South America.
The Future Remains Uncertain and Troubling
There seems to be no end in sight to Venezuela’s misery. The opposition to Maduro grows, and yet he retains support from hard-line “Chavistas” left over from the time of Chavez. Also, he has an armed military on his side, at least for now.
The protestors outnumber the Maduro supporters in the country of 30 million souls. However, the protestors are unarmed. Support for their cause is growing worldwide, and perhaps political pressure from the U.S. may turn the tide. No one knows if that will happen anytime soon.
Whatever the eventual outcome, it is hoped that more violence and suffering can be avoided. Perhaps true liberty can be achieved peacefully, and the nation can be brought back from the brink of chaos. If not, the outlook is bleak indeed in Venezuela, and many millions will suffer as a result.
Opinion News By D.T. Osborn
Edited by Cathy Milne
Boston Globe: As Venezuela slips into chaos, US should consider sanctions
CNN: Venezuela: What’s the crisis about?
Miami Herald: Amid hungry, violent looting, Venezuelan shopkeepers fortify their businesses
Townhall: The Ugly Face of Socialism
The Japan News: GM quits Venezuela after govt seizes factory
Featured and Top Images Courtesy of Anyul Rivas’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License