Seventeen-year-old Neomar Lander is the latest person killed in the violent political protests that have plagued Venezuela for the last several months. The death toll, which has risen to 66 since April, has continued to increase as protesters have taken to the streets to protest President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, which many refer to as a dictatorship.
There are conflicting reports from both sides on how Lander died.
Protesters claim that Lander died when he was hit by a tear gas canister. Graphic footage of Lander receiving first aid, which made its way to Twitter, shows the wounded teenager lying on the ground with a horrific wound to his upper right chest area.
Officials from Maduro’s government refuted the protesters’ version of events.
Authorities have the teenager died from injuries sustained when a homemade mortar exploded in his hands. The extremely graphic footage posted to Twitter shows neither of Lander’s hands with any injury as serious as the one in his chest.
Disagreements between both sides continue to add to the political tensions brewing in Venezuela.
No matter how Lander sustained his injuries, the reality is that the unrest between protesters and the government continues to increase, leading to senseless deaths. President Maduro blames the protests on right-wing extremists. During a televised speech, Maduro told his supporters, “This is criminal terrorism, and we must reject it.”
On the other side, protesters are staying focused on their mission. As Time reported, Miguel Pizarro, an anti-Maduro lawmaker, said, “We mustn’t let fear intimidate us, let’s stay in the streets to fight for all Venezuelans’ future.” He also added, “Soon we will able to say these were the last, dark days of the dictatorship.”
While the international news about Venezuela may have subsided just a tiny bit, make no mistake that the crisis is still very alive. The difference now is that Venezuelans are not only protesting President Nicolás Maduro, but also President Donald Trump. For years, Venezuelans have pleaded that they’re in dire need of food and other essentials, but it’s as if no one seems to care. Trump has now imposed more economic sanctions on Venezuela, though it may be all smoke and mirrors. The reality is people want Maduro out, and they want to be able to survive there too. Most low-income people have to travel to Colombia in order to get essentials that they cannot get back home. But now the most vulnerable are paying the price.
The health care system of Venezuela has stopped purchasing HIV and AIDS medication, which means an estimated 7,700 Venezuelans that are living with the disease are facing a significant emergency.
A new report in Foreign Policy informs that due to the dire situation in Venezuela, their healthcare system has been unable to purchase HIV/AIDS medication. This is putting thousands of people infected at risk. The turmoil of the country’s healthcare is the result of the corruption that has plagued Venezuela since former President Hugo Chávez was in charge. It’s even worse now under Maduro.
“As a result, the country’s medical system is severely under-resourced, FP reports. “Government funding for medical care has been slashed, more than half the country’s doctors have fled Venezuela, and drastic shortages in medical equipment have hampered the ability of hospitals to provide even basic treatment for their patients.”
People with HIV or AIDS are not the only ones suffering from this downturn in medical supplies; others, including children, need basic vaccines as well.
Marisol Ramírez is a 56-year-old Venezuelan who travels to Colombia not just for medication but also for food. She said she sometimes has to decide between food or medicine because it is too expensive to get both. Many others are in the same position.
“Just last month, they gave me enough [antiretroviral drugs] for three months, because due to the situation in the country, we can’t be going up and down to get here. The price of [bus] tickets are incredibly high, and we can’t be coming down here every month,” Marisol Ramírez told Foreign Policy.
There is some hope. The U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) are reportedly going to send 12,000 doses of HIV/AIDS medication, but there are still several issues.
“When I was there I actually signed a letter of intent with the minister of health Juan Pablo Uribe for the United States to be providing HIV antiretrovirals to Colombia for the use with Venezuelan refugees,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar told Reuters. Azar also said there’s a plan in place to rebuild the healthcare system once Maduro is out, but who knows when that will be.
“If you don’t have any money … or you don’t support the current government you don’t have anything,” a Venezuelan man told the Washington Blade. “It is, unfortunately, very sad.”
Some may assume that because HIV and AIDS are treatable that it’s not a problem like it was in previous years. However, people are only surviving this terrible illness because of medication, so, without it, people are likely to die.
Jesus Aguais, founder of Aid for AIDS, an international organization, said that 80 percent of Venezuelans “with HIV who should be on treatment are not,” and added, “That’s terrible from a public health perspective. Not only are people going to get sicker, but HIV is going to spread faster.”
He also said another vulnerable group that is suffering from this disease that is not getting the help they deserve is the indigenous Warao community. He noted that HIV and AIDS are affecting them, and if they don’t get the proper medication, the community as a whole may be completely wiped out.
The headline gives it away: it’s legit, Trump and his band of merry men are considering taking steps to enact a TPS, or Temporary Protected Status, specifically for Venezuelans in the US. But what does this mean, exactly? Don’t worry, because we’ve saved you the hard work of doing research on the topic – read on to find out all about it.
Why the White House is considering a TPS for Venezuelans.
Instituting a TPS for the Venezuelan population in the US would essentially protect them from being deported. While at this stage the details are sketchy, it seems that the plan would be to not only allow Venezuelans to continue living in the US, but also have work permits, too. And yes, it would also mean that these same Venezuelans, with their newfound legal status, wouldn’t have to watch out for persecution from ICE officers anymore.
The primary reason the White House is seeking to provide legal protections for Venezuelans is due to the current political environment in Venezuela.
While it’s a complicated situation, the short story is that Venezuela’s current President, Nicolás Maduro, has been accused of running fraudulent elections by his opposition. This has escalated into military struggles – which, alongside power cuts, and food and medicine shortages, has resulted in an estimated four million Venezuelans leaving the country. As a result, Venezuelan migrants flocked to the US, since it’s one of the closest stable countries to Venezuela. However, that doesn’t mean that all Venezuelan migrants have got current paperwork for them to live and work in the US. Establishing a TPS for these Venezuelans would ensure that they’re rightfully recognized as asylum seekers, and give them the legal status to remain and work in the US.
Why it’s hella weird that the White House is considering a TPS for Venezuelans.
Don’t get us wrong – it’s great that, for once, the Trump administration is considering ways to protect people who are legitimately seeking asylum. But, it’s also weird as heck that it is considering ways of instituting a TPS. Remember, this is the same administration that gave us the infamous Muslim ban, overcrowded detention centers in El Paso, and also jeopardized the DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, program. Trump and friends don’t really have a great record when it comes to embracing immigration.
The other thing to consider is that the TPS they’re proposing would only be available for asylum seekers coming from Venezuela.
People from other Latin American countries aren’t in luck, this time around. Some have speculated that the reason for this is because while Trump and his team consider Venezuelans to be refugees fleeing danger, they see Hispanics from the rest of Latin America as job seekers, looking to leech off of America’s success.
Another theory that’s been floated is that Trump is actually thinking ahead to 2020: Florida, as a key battleground state, is home to a considerable Venezuelan community. Offering TPS to friends and families in those neighborhoods could possibly be the olive branch Trump needs to secure deciding votes in the state. So, for those cynics out there, maybe it’s not so weird that Donald has has a change of heart when it comes to some immigrants.
Why the White House considering a TPS for Venezuelans isn’t a permanent solution.
Well, firstly, it’s important to remember that TPS stands for Temporary Protection Status – with emphasis on the temporary. The question remains as to what would constitute grounds for withdrawing such protection: would Maduro have to step down? Would Venezuela’s political system need to be overhauled? Or would Venezuela have to reach a certain GDP threshold before the US considered it stable enough for Venezuelans to return? And, what about potential pathways to gaining full, legitimate US citizenship from the TPS? The terms of the TPS are yet to be fully explored.
Another, secondary, thing to think about is the fact that not all Republicans are on board with the TPS.
It’s entirely possible that party politics may stand in the way of successfully implementing a magnanimous TPS program.
At the end of the day, while it’s great to see the Trump administration reconsidering its harsh stance on immigration and asylum seekers, at the same time, if they’re planning to institute policy to accommodate for refugees, then they need to plan for the long term. The reality is that if people are being settled in the US under a TPS to escape the hardships and traumas of their native countries, they are inevitably going to build a life, make friends and potentially create a family, under the auspices of a temporary program. Removing them from that life would further traumatize these people and also damage the community. Let’s hope that the current administration keeps this in mind when they’re debating the TPS. After all, these are human lives they are talking about.
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