Things That Matter

As Nicolas Maduro Dances In Celebration, Protests Turn Violent In The Streets Of Venezuela

The crisis in Venezuela shows no signs of improving as violence erupted at several points along Venezuela’s border over the weekend. Armed government forces tried to block shipments of aid from entering the country that resulted in the death of four people and injuring countless more. Soldiers threw tear gas and rounds of rubber bullets at protesters who tried to bring boxes of aid across the neighboring Colombian and Brazilian borders. The aid, which came from the U.S, is desperately needed right now as thousands are in urgent need of food and medicine.

Venezuela is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis with no end in sight.

Maduro, pedazo de malnacido, sabíamos que eres incompetente, ignorante, farsante, dictador, marioneta, corrupto, narco, cobarde, criminal, pero ahora ya sabemos que eres el asesino criminal del pueblo venezolano. Que Dios te maldiga y te fulmine. Y pronto!!! pic.twitter.com/joCgq95feX— Miguel Bosé (@BoseOfficial) February 23, 2019

This is all happening as as embattled president Nicolás Maduro tries to withstand opposition from within Venezuela and other international leaders who’ve called for him to step down. Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is being supported by the U.S., backed the efforts of the incoming aid. Maduro has rejected the help and called upon military forces to stop people from getting to the aid, this resulted in a clash with activists at the Venezuelan border on Saturday.

Getty Images

“They started shooting at close range as if we were criminals,” Vladimir Gomez, a shoekeeper told NBC News. “I couldn’t avoid the (rubber) bullets and they hit me in the face and my back. We have to fight.”

Trucks carrying aid have been torched as Maduro has attempted to stop help from coming into the country.

A truck in a convoy attempting to deliver humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Colombia went up in flames and crowds started taking boxes of supplies from another truck, as Nicolas Maduro has refused to allow any kind of international aid in the country. https://t.co/nmlqoBh818 pic.twitter.com/KUIIgqe52p— ABC News (@ABC) February 25, 2019

Three trucks of aid caught on fire along border checkpoints at the Santander and Simón Bolivar bridges that connect Venezuela to Colombia. Venezuelan authorities blamed pro-opposition protestors for burning the aid trucks and for attacking Venezuelan security authorities on the bridges. Maduro has previously said the aid is not needed and called those trying to help bring it in to the country “traitors.”

While all this was happening, Maduro was dancing it up at a pro-regime rally.

Maduro dances on national TV as national guards fire tear gas and plastic pellets at crowds trying to move humanitarian aid into the country along the Colombian border pic.twitter.com/4u4zEHDixi— Patricia Laya (@PattyLaya) February 23, 2019

Video captured Maduro dancing with his wife during a pro-regime rally Saturday in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. The scene was criticized by many as turmoil in the streets turned deadly. Even as Maduro starts to lose power within his own country, he has remained defiant in his refusal to give up control.

Maduro has now broken off diplomatic and political relations with Colombia because of their support of the U.S. move to bring aid. He has ordered all Colombian diplomats to leave Venezuela.

The U.S has now placed more sanctions on Venezuela, asking for Maduro to step down.

Vice President Pence announces new sanctions against Venezuela’s Maduro in speech from Colombia https://t.co/Se2XijM7Bv— TIME (@TIME) February 25, 2019

On Monday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Venezuelan Guaido to show the country’s support. The meeting was the first between Pence and Guaido since the US decided to publicly back him as the rightful Venezuelan leader about a month ago. While President Trump has previously said “all options are on the table” when it comes to Venezuela, the U.S. will try to diplomatically take down Maduro first.

“In the days ahead as well, the United States will announce even stronger sanctions on the regime’s corrupt financial networks. We will work with all of you to find every last dollar that they’ve stolen and work to return it to the Venezuelan people,” Pence said at the meeting with Guaidó.

Getty Images

One thing is clear, the people in Venezuela are facing turmoil beyond just the rule of Maduro. The country is facing economic downfall due to inflation and a government that is denying help. If Guaidó and other opposition forces are too succeed, they will need restore hope back to the people of Venezuela.

Esperanza Rodriguez, 49, had worked as a Venezuelan police offer for 19 years before leaving the job. She was at the border where she asked security to allow the aid in. Rodriguez told the LA Times the people in Venezuela are suffering and change is desperately needed.

“This is just the first step. We need to get rid of Maduro and his corrupt government and start a new Venezuela.”

READ:What You Need To Know About The Growing Turmoil In Venezuela That Has Left At Least 40 People Dead

Share this story by tapping the share button below

As Human Rights Violations Continue In Nicaragua, The Catholic Church Is Calling For Peace Talks

Things That Matter

As Human Rights Violations Continue In Nicaragua, The Catholic Church Is Calling For Peace Talks

There are increased concerns coming out of Nicaragua due to an on-going human rights crisis that began in April 2018 over planned cuts to welfare benefits. The government of President Daniel Ortega has been at the front of this situation and have done everything they can to silence and stop protesters.

This has all lead to multiple violent clashes on city streets between pro-government forces and protesters that have claimed more than 300 lives, injured more than 2,000 people and countless more have been imprisoned. According to human rights groups, this has included torture and the denial of due process. In return, the violence has prompted thousands of Nicaraguans to go into exile. 

Here’s how we got to this point and what is being done to put an end to the violence in Nicaragua.

Credit: @hww_intel / Twitter

Back in April, the Nicaraguan Government announced that there would be cuts in social security payments. This resulted in immediate nationwide protests that brought flashbacks of the violence seen last year. These cuts were eventually rescinded but not the protests and calls for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega, who’s in his fourth term, to step down and for swift elections to follow. President Ortega balked at the notion of leaving office and says he’ll serve his full term until the next elections in 2021. 

The Catholic church continues to be the mediator between the Ortega government and opposition forces in its efforts to initiate talks between the two bitterly entrenched sides to resolve the crippling ongoing crisis. Last week, a Vatican representative called for the continuation of talks and negotiations. The goal here is to try to release reforms to begin “free and transparent elections” in Nicaragua. 

“The Holy See has been following with great attention the sociopolitical situation in Nicaragua and believes that the unsettled disputes should be solved as soon as possible,”  Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva, told Reuters.

The Vatican is hoping to bring both sides together in a “renewed spirit of responsibility and reconciliation” to hopefully bring forth a resolution “that respects the truth, reestablishes justice and promotes the common good.”  Jurkovic said at a speech on Sept. 10 during a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on the situation in Nicaragua that these talks will be necessary if there is any hope of peace in the country. 

“The Holy See strongly believes that it is essential to implement the agreements reached last March, to return immediately to open and mutually respectful negotiations and to realize, at the earliest, the electoral reforms for the holding of free and transparent elections with the presence of international observers,” Archbishop Jurkovic told Reuters.

The United Nations has also called for the immediate resignation of President Ortega, who has overseen violations of human rights in Nicaragua. 

Credit: @civiccusalliance / Twitter

As the Vatican voiced its concern about Nicaragua, Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, made comments on the same day about the violence in the country. She noted that while violence has decreased since the Ortega government and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy met for peace talks in February, there is still human rights violation occurring. 

“Between August 2018 and July 2019, human rights violations continued to occur in Nicaragua,” Bachelet told the Human Rights Council. “However, since the end of February 2019, when the Government and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy resumed their dialogue, the number of violations against life and personal integrity has decreased, proof that dialogue is a possible and peaceful way to overcome the crisis.”

From mid-March to mid-June, the Ortega administration had released nearly 400 people who were detained due to protests over the last year. The majority, however, were released under restrictive measures. While most major protests have calmed over the last few months, there have been multiple human rights violations that have occurred. The government has banned public demonstrations from those that have criticized them and have also used violent tactics to stop citizens from public self-expression.  

“We cannot remain in total silence, we cannot be silent,”  Juan Mata Guevara, a bishop of Esteli, Nicaragua, said at the bishops’ conference.“This way of proceeding is an exercise of irrational authoritarianism. This reflects how the regime does not see the needs of those who suffer.”

READ: These Quesadilla Fails Will Make You Wonder How It’s Possible For People To Mess Up A Tortilla With Cheese

The Venezuelan Government Has Stopped Buying HIV And AIDS Medication

Things That Matter

The Venezuelan Government Has Stopped Buying HIV And AIDS Medication

Unsplash

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.

Credit: @cmternes / Twitter

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. 

Credit: @PattyLayla / Twitter

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. 

Credit: @ReuterVZLA / Twitter

“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. 

Credit: @PeterTatchell / Twitter

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.

READ: The Crisis In Venezuela Is Worsening. Here’s What You Should Know Right Now