A 20 Year Crisis


photo by Getty Images

Hannah Shiflett, Reporter

The first South American country to be touched by Christopher Columbus is one well-known for many Miss Universes, producing the most beautiful women, and the tallest natural waterfall in the world. Despite the country’s current state, it used to be the richest country in all of South and Central America until the late 1990s. This country is Venezuela.

Venezuela has many resources, like iron ore, gold, bauxite, diamonds, and natural gas, as well as their great coastal beaches, lush forests, and rich culture — but the most important resource they have is oil.

Oil used to be the country’s biggest resource, counting for more than 20% of the world’s oil back in 2012. Venezuela even proved to have more than Saudi Arabia, leading the world by producing more than 300 million barrels of oil in 2017, while Saudi Arabia made just over 265 million. While everyone continues to be concerned about the Middle East and how their oil will be sold and bought, they have turned their backs on the king of oil.

Despite the fact that Venezuela has been a power country in South and Central America for several years, due to the former presidency of Hugo Chavez, the country has fallen into shambles and became worse when Nicolas Maduro became president.

Hugo Chavez by Bibilography

Chavez became president after he was released from jail for committing a coup d’état against the 1992 president, Carlos Andres Perez. When he was pardoned by President Rafael Caldera Rodríguez in 1994, he then ran for presidency in 1998 and won. A Venezuelan citizen to whom the Uproar spoke said Chavez’s acquisition of the presidency was “a rigged election.” Later, after reelection, Chavez’s approval rating continued to stay high.

For Chavez to keep his approval rating, he made promises to the country of Venezuela, saying he would bring money into the country by oil and reform all of its social programs to help the poor. During this time, he managed to rewrite the constitution to have full control over all three branches of government. Because of rewriting the constitution, every elected official had to run again, and in doing so, Chavez was able to put people loyal to him in power.

Already having established a relationship with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Maduro later announced his desire for Venezuela to follow Cuba’s path. After announcing these wishes, he isolated the country by pushing away the US and the UK. When Chavez was met with a potential political opponent, he would have them arrested and silenced to ensure he continued to stay in power.

On March 5, 2013, Chavez died of cancer. After his death, Nicolas Maduro was then appointed as president. Venezuela had reached a point where violence skyrocketed because, unlike Maduro, Chavez made secretive threats to try and keep the people at bay.

Nicolas Maduro by Wikipedia

When Maduro gained the presidency, many Venezuelans believed that he would be a better president than Chavez, although that belief quickly declined. Shortly after being inaugurated, many protests took place; at times, the military and police opened fire on the protesting crowds, where the majority of protestors were college students.

One of the biggest issues affecting the people of Venezuela is the hyperinflation rate. The hyperinflation rate in Venezuela stood at 2.69 million percent in January of 2019, according to Trading Economics, and averaged out at 191.6% per month. In other words, the Venezuelan dollar, also known as the bolivar, stood at 24,852 bolivar to one US dollar on January 30th.

The upward trend of the inflation rate began during the Chavez administration when government spending increased, production to sell goods fell, poor investment ran rampant, and maintenance on oil, including the pricing, fell. Funding for the social programs grew expensive, even though continuing to do so meant that Chavez would maintain power. Chavez would not only use social programs to keep power, but he would use the money to fund himself and certain wealthy individuals around him. This caused government spending to increase.

When Maduro arrived, he began to blame the US for their economic failure. Upon interviewing Venezuelans on why the economy had been affected, those the Uproar spoke to agreed that it was because of production falling and the price on oil decreasing, but many blamed the government for taking money by putting it into wealthy supporters’ pockets instead of investigating into the maintenance of oil and production.

Then, back in 2016, a term was coined, calling the starvation of the Venezuelan people “the Maduro Diet.” The Maduro diet refers to when people in Venezuela cannot buy food because there is either no food coming into the country or because the price for food is too high. Then, back in early 2017, when aid was sent to help the people, the food was only distributed to those who were ‘loyal supporters’ to Maduro. Now, as the price of food continues to increase, riots grow in the streets. Young college students have been murdered protesting against Maduro. Young children are starving, left at orphanages as parents escape to neighboring countries. There is one family here in the United States who has begun to send food and clothes to their extended family in Venezuela to try and help them survive. They’ve been sending packages since 2016.

Juan Guaidó by Wikipedia

Currently, there is a dispute or challenge, as others would put it, in the country, but to the people of Venezuela, a revolution is happening. Recently, a man by the name of Juan Guaidó has claimed to be the true president of Venezuela, instead of Maduro. Because his re-election turned out to be a fraud, Maduro is technically the illegitimate president of Venezuela; Guaidó is now the sitting president until an election can occur. Thanks to the challenge on presidents, Venezuela has been in mass conflict, where civilians are dying due to protests, starvation, and home invasions, as people search for food and medicine.

This crisis in Venezuela is not new. It’s been going on for twenty years, and the only difference between now and then is that the people of Venezuela are done operating under a dictator who has destroyed the economy, the people, and its land. One day, Venezuela will prevail in becoming a free state again and return to power, as it was twenty years ago.