Things That Matter

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

It’s been over a month since the Venezuelan National Assembly enacted a part of the constitution to declare National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela setting off what has been a tumultuous last few weeks. Guaidó has been challenging the legitimacy of sitting President Nicolás Maduro which has resulted in a standoff between the two leaders. The clash of powers and U.S. involvement has plunged the already crisis-ridden country into new depths of chaos. So how did we get here and what’s next for Venezuela?

Government and opposition forces are struggling for political power in Venezuela, a country facing economic chaos and widespread shortages.

CREDIT: Getty Images

After President Maduro was sworn in to a second six-year term in office in early January, Guaidó, 35, declared himself acting president shortly after. By directly challenging Maduro, Guaidó set off a chain of protests and political opposition that have rattled Venezuela.

The country is in the midst of a growing economic crisis that has created a humanitarian crisis. Millions of residents are unable to afford food and medicine which has made the Maduro-Guaidó situation more dire. This downfall began during Maduros’ first term as president back in 2013 as the Venezuelan economy turned south.

These rapidly worsening conditions have led to many Venezuelans leaving the country. Since 2015, more than 3 million have left in search of better opportunities elsewhere, primarily in bordering Colombia.

Residents have taken to the streets over the last month to show their displeasure with Maduro.

CREDIT: Jorge Silva / Reuters

Protests have been occurring in Venezuela more frequently since Maduro was re-elected in January. Many call his re-election a sham due to many opposition candidates being barred from running or even jailed. Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly refused to recognize the election results, calling the election a sham and the presidency vacant. Under Venezuelan rule, since Guaidó is the head of the National Assembly, he took over as acting president in such cases.

The controversial election had many Venezuelans angry and looked toward a new voice. Guaidó, along with the U.S. and a number of other international leaders, say that Maduro isn’t the rightful president. While many are calling for Guaidó to lead, he still has very little power. To this point, Venezuelan forces have remained largely loyal to Maduro and few joined Guaidó’s attempt to take him down.

Even as people are killed and injured in the streets on Venezuela, Maduro has done very little to calm the situation and lead his people out of the crisis. While there are still some that support him, he is losing support as food and the need for medicine become critical issues.

The U.S. is getting involved in the crisis which has raised some questions.

CREDIT: @ISALEHAA / Twitter

The Trump administration was one of the first countries to come out in support of Guaidó, calling him the rightful president. The U.S. has since placed multiple sanctions on Venezuela’s oil reserves. Some have criticized the U.S. involvement with the crisis in Venezuela due of the history the U.S. has had meddling with other countries wars.

President Maduro views the U.S. as a foe and over the weekend continued to refuse it’s delivery of aid, calling it an attempt to gain power over his country. Despite multiple sanctions and even a visit from Vice President Mike Pence on Monday, Maduro refuses to let go of his power.

Things have gotten so bad that Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was detained after Maduro didn’t like some of his questions.

Credit: Twitter/ChroniclesofAzu

Ramos and five other staffers were held for about three hours while interviewing President Maduro on Monday. Reports say Maduro objected to Ramos’ questions about the current political crisis and quickly cut the interview short. Government aides reportedly confiscated the network’s equipment and hold the team’s footage of the interview.

The situation demonstrates the immense pressure and scrutiny President Maduro is under. While Ramos and his team were later released, the action show a clear picture that Maduro doesn’t want to be shown as anything but good for the people of Venezuela.

Where does the country go from here?

Credit: @Techieappy / Twitter

There are many forces at hand in the Venezuelan crisis that include forces inside and outside of the country. The number of military officials leaving President Maduro keeps increasing as they join the thousands leaving for Colombia. The U.S. will continue to send aid and back Guaidó to send a clear message to Maduro.

The real tragedy here is the suffering of the Venezuelan people who are looking for food and aid while the crisis persists. Residents have been seen looking through trashcans for food and are looting stores in desperation. With a failing economy, a corrupt leader at the helm, and rapidly growing inflation, change is desperately needed in Venezuela.

Venezuelans face a tough decision between protesting and exposing themselves to Maduro, stay in hiding, or joining the millions of Venezuelans who have already left the country behind.

READ: Protests Continue In Venezuela As Opposition Forces Try Bringing Down Maduro

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

Tropical Storm Dorian Could Hit Puerto Rico And People On The Island Aren’t Taking Any Chances

Things That Matter

Tropical Storm Dorian Could Hit Puerto Rico And People On The Island Aren’t Taking Any Chances

The Guardian / YouTube

The Atlantic Hurricane season has been off to a slow start in 2019 and residents of Puerto Rico couldn’t be more thankful. After a devastating season in 2017, which included Hurricane Maria, the island is still in crisis mode trying to rebuild.

Many island residents are still without 24/7 access to electricity while many others are still living in makeshift homes or buildings without proper roofing.

So news that a powerful tropical storm, which could strengthen into a hurricane, has many boricuas on edge.

Another menacing storm is on track to slam the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, an island still grappling with the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Tropical Storm Dorian is strengthening as it moves westward towards the Caribbean, and could reach hurricane strength by early Thursday, possibly before hitting Puerto Rico.

As of Monday morning, Dorian is considered a “small tropical cyclone.” It’s just over 130 miles from Barbados, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. It’s moving at approximately 14 mph towards the Windward Islands, which are expected to face tropical storm conditions later Monday. 

Tropical storm watches and warnings are in effect for the area, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

The storm system has intensified as it churns towards several Caribbean islands.

“Hurricane watches and tropical storm watches and warnings have been issued for parts of the Leeward and Windward Islands, where Dorian is expected move through on Tuesday morning,” meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

“The storm is still forecast to be a hurricane as it approaches Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and Thursday.”

By the end of the week, what’s left of Dorian is expected to move toward the Bahamas and possibly southeastern parts of the mainland US. 

“But it is still way too early to forecast impacts,” Hennen said.

The storm is forecast to hit the Lesser Antilles as a strong tropical storm.

Tropical storm warnings have also been issued for Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Tropical storm watches have been issued for Dominica, Martinique and Grenada and its dependencies. A hurricane watch has been issued for St. Lucia.

The NHC also issued a warning for mariners, swimmers and surfers, saying that swells triggered by the storm around the Lesser Antilles could cause “life-threatening surf and rip current conditions” by late Monday.

It’s too early to tell for certain whether Dorian will hit Puerto Rico or other islands further west, and how strong of a storm it might be when and if it does. But the NHC says it’s monitoring the storm closely and “watches could be required later today.”

It was just under two years ago that Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria,which led to the deaths of close to 3,000 people.

The island remains in crisis almost two years after Hurricane Maria, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, killed almost 3,000 people in September 2017.

Puerto Rico’s power grid, which was destroyed, remains severely compromised, and with its electric utility more than $9 billion in debt, the island’s new governor earlier this month suspended a $450,000 contractthat was to have been part of the rebuilding program.

Dorian’s arrival also comes as Puerto Rico is suffering from what is perhaps the worst political crisis in its history. 

Governor Ricardo Rosselló resigned late last month amid historic demonstrations after hundreds of offensive chats between him and his top advisers were published, some of which made light of the deaths from Maria. 

And since then, the island has seen two more governors. Many are asking with all this distraction will the island be prepare for a potentially life-threatening storm. 

Puerto Ricans aren’t taking any chance with many already stocking up on supplies.

After the devastation that rocked the island after Hurricane Maria, many residents suffer from PTSD. Many are taking zero chances with this storm and have stormed local supermarkets to stock up on water, foods, batteries, and other important supplies.