Once one of the richest countries in South America, Venezuelan currency is virtually worthless today. The country is suffering from an economic, humanitarian and political crisis. The country is at risk of falling into civil war, and there may be an international intervention. Meanwhile, extremely high inflation has made everything even worse. Since 2010, Venezuela has been going through a devastating economic crisis falling oil prices in a country that relies on oil almost exclusively. And then, earlier this year, a presidential crisis began, with the fight between the president Nicolas Maduro, and the opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president with the support of other countries.
When Maduro took over as president after the death of Hugo Chavez, the oil-reliant economy was already suffering. The president was re-elected in 2018 amidst great controversy. According to the nation’s election board, he supposedly won with 5.8 million votes while the runner up only had 1.8 million votes. The election board happens to be run by Maduro loyalists. A majority of the population including the opposition, believe that an electoral fraud occurred, and have not accepted Maduro as the legitimate president.
Economic problems in Venezuela have been going on since the oil problems started in 2010. The country is a typical case of a failed petrostate: a country with several interrelated attributes including oil dependence, falling production, spiraling economy, huge debt, hyperinflation and growing autocracy. All of this combined resulted in a devastating economic and humanitarian crisis according to specialists. In January 2019, the big presidential crisis deepened the already existing economic crisis. According to a Brazilian journalist, Debora Lopes, after the start of the presidential crisis this year, the country was suffering from many issues, such as not having enough food for everyone, the school and health care system collapsing and the borders with other South American countries being closed. Meanwhile, the crisis is continuing to lead to the deaths of dozens of Venezuelans. The U.N. Human rights office in the country estimated about 40 deaths as of January, and the opposition claimed 21 people died during recent blackouts alone.
Inside the country while all of this is happening, there have been protests and violence in the streets about who should be the actual president. Guaidó has the support of the majority of the population. However, protestors can’t force Nicolas Maduro step down from the presidency. Guaido is using his Twitter to motivate all the citizens to go to the street to fight. Arriving at the Venezuela airport after meetings with others South American leaders, Guaido tweeted, “Back in our beloved country! Venezuela, we just passed through immigration and we will now head to where our people are.”
The crisis is turning into an international proxy war scenario with the U.S and Russia leading each group. Countries like the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Colombia, some European countries and others are supporting the opposition leader Juan Guaido, while Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, Bolivia and Turkey are supporting President Maduro. There is a big risk of a civil war in Venezuela, especially considering U.S. and Russian involvement. Some fear it could end up turning into a conflict like the Vietnam War. Because this historical comparison, the citizens are anxious and about war breaking out.
Brazil and Colombia tried to send aid trucks across the border to Venezuela, but president Maduro, refusing to accept the premise that international intervention is necessary, had the border blocked. Brazilian hospitals near the border are overloaded with refugees and the Brazilian state of Roraima declared a state of emergency due to the lack of essential supplies. Other countries are participating at UN meetings trying to figure out what to do with Venezuela, but have decided that they must resolve the crisis themselves.
The crisis is far from reaching an end, since the idea of an agreement is out of question. Guaido’s immunity has been stripped by a judge, putting him at risk of being arrested for allegedly defying the constitution by declaring himself interim president. Maduro is announcing power rationing between blackouts but schools are finally back in session. Meanwhile, the tension at the borders has not decreased and Venezuela may soon see the arrival of even more Russian troops than have already arrived.
Image Credit: Flickr / Nicolas Raymond