Venezuela in Crisis

Leslie Nunez, Staff Writer

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The Venezuelan people are currently under control of one leader, President Nicolas Maduro, a man who is slowly turning their democracy into a dictatorship.

Maduro was reelected to a second term in May, 2018 in an election that, according to Ana Vanessa Herrero of The New York Times, was, “widely criticized, with reports of coercion, fraud and electoral rigging.” According to Herrero, Maduro won, “68 percent of the vote.” Maduro was first elected president in 2013, following the death of former President Hugo Chavez, whom  Maduro served as Vice President under from 2012-2013.

Former President Chavez, who served in the role from 1999-2013 made very important changes to the Venezuelan constitution that changed all future presidential terms. Chavez made changes such as making presidential terms six years rather than five and eliminated term limits, meaning the Venezuelan people may have Nicolas Maduro as president for a very long time.

Today, the country is suffering from hyperinflation and a shortage of food and medicine. Additionally,  poverty and violence has broken out due to gangs and angry citizens clashing in the streets. These issues, which have been years in the making, have shaken the oil-rich nation and led to significant changes. According to Lucia Benavides of NPR, “An estimated 3.4 million citizens have fled Venezuela in recent years.” Those who have left and those who remain  are unhappy with President Maduro, who many now feel has not done any good during his presidency.

Unfortunately for the Venezuelan people, Maduro has denied aid from other countries, including the US. According to Siobhán O’Grady of The Washington Post, “Maduro has refused the aid, saying that he will not allow Venezuela to become a country of ‘beggars.’” Venezuelans who are starving and becoming very ill face an uncertain future that includes blackouts which have affected medical centers and businesses.

Reporters, including Mexican Jorge Ramos and American Cody Weddle, have been  detained by Maduro and his government. According to Rafael Bernal of The Hill, Ramos and his crew have faced several detentions including one where “the news crew’s equipment was confiscated, as well as the material for the interview that Maduro didn’t like.”

Juan Guaido, who was Maduro’s opponent in the 2018 presidential election, left Venezuela after being put on a travel ban by his own government. According to Natalle Gallon of CNN, Guaido left Venezuela for Colombia in late February to usher much-needed food and medical supplies across the border.” However, this event quickly turned violent as the aid was denied and burned by the military.

Following this incident, Guaido met with the Presidents from Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Paraguay as well as US Vice President Mike Pence. Guaido returned to Venezuela on March 4th with the support of many nations, including the US. On March 12th US National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted, “The U.S. fully supports Interim President Juan Guaido and the National Assembly. We will continue to intensify our efforts to end Maduro’s usurpation of Venezuela’s Presidency and will hold the military and security forces responsible for protecting the Venezuelan people.”

Guaido’s supporters helped him arrive safely in Venezuela where he looks to gain momentum for his bid to unseat Maduro. Guaido has also received support and help from German ambassador Daniel Kriener, who was among a group of foreign diplomats who greeted Guaido at the airport when he returned. According to Tom Phillips of The Guardian, Maduro’s administration accused Kriener and the German government – which was among those to recognize Maduro’s rival Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader last month – of ‘crass’ and ‘unlawful’ meddling in Venezuelan affairs.” Following his welcoming of Guaido, Kriener was ordered to leave the country by Maduro’s administration.

As of Thursday, March 7th, there is a blackout in most parts of Venezuela. According to Anatoly Kurmanaev of the New York Times, Mr. Maduro and his ministers have insisted the blackout is the result of sabotage and cyberattacks organized by the United States and the opposition, without providing any evidence.” President Nicolas Maduro claims the US is trying to throw him out of power.

The Venezuelan people are under a crisis, one that, as of right now, seems like there won’t be an end to it.