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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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The Venezuelan Government Has Stopped Buying HIV And AIDS Medication

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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“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. 

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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

Female Indigenous Chief Confirms That Burning The Amazon Is Akin To Genocide, She’s Learning Portuguese To Speak To Brazil’s Leaders

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Female Indigenous Chief Confirms That Burning The Amazon Is Akin To Genocide, She’s Learning Portuguese To Speak To Brazil’s Leaders

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“Our concern is that if the forest is gone, people will also end,” Ajareaty Waiapi, also known as Nazaré, told her people back in March. Protecting the Amazon rainforest has long been a top priority for environmentalists who understand the Amazon’s ability to store carbon. Nazaré is an indigenous Waiapi chief during a crucial time period under Brazil’s President Bolsonaro, who vowed during his campaign to ensure “there will not be one centimeter more of indigenous land.” He later corrected his statement and said what he actually meant was not one more millimeter.

For the last few weeks, the Amazon rainforest, which is home to much of Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous peoples, has been on fire. 

This tribal leader is on a mission to inform the world that saving her peoples means saving the planet.

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At age 58, Nazaré decided to attend a high school geography class to better understand her peoples’ land and as it relates to the rest of the world. Waiapi elders, including Nazaré, have long predicted that these fires would come–ever since Bolsonaro launched his campaign, which included promises to declassify indigenous lands as protected and open it up to agribusiness.

Brazil has experienced twice as many fires in the last three months as it did during the same time period in 2018.

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Robin Chazdon, an environmental professor at the University of Connecticut, has confirmed that there’s no reason to think environmental conditions like drought has been causing the fires. Environmental groups are pointing to the most significant change in Brazil between 2018 and 2019: Jair Bolsonaro. Once he took office in January, he rolled back environmental regulations that made it easier for cattle ranchers to illegally burn down and level the Amazon for cows to graze, be slaughtered and repackaged to meet the world’s demand for meat.

Bolsonaro has long made hostile remarks about the Indigenous people, saying they “smell, are uneducated and don’t speak our language.”

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Before he was elected president, Bolsonaro had said, “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians.” All throughout his campaign, experts feared for the consequent genocide of indigenous peoples if he would be elected, given his disdain for the peoples and desire for growing agribusiness. 

President Bolsonaro has long resented protected lands for indigenous peoples, once stating that “the recognition of indigenous land is an obstacle to agribusiness.”

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During his campaign, he threatened to shut down FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs department. Instead, in June, Bolsonaro elected a federal police officer to reside as the President of FUNAI. The new president, Marcelo Xavier da Silva, once worked on an inquiry that alleged that FUNAI’s interest in protecting indigenous lands was not of the indigenous’ peoples desires, but rather a product of “external interests and ideological objectives.” According to a spokesperson for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, the new president already “has a long history campaigning and working against indigenous people – he was always in favor of farmers.”

The rise of Bolsonaro has prompted Nazaré to learn Portuguese so she could “talk with the white man out in the meetings.”

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There are very few female chiefs because they are less likely to go to school and learn Portuguese. Chief’s carry the responsibility of protecting their peoples from outside dangers, the largest being the colonizers that have settled the land surrounding them. Learning Portuguese is crucial in protecting their land. Nazaré started attending school at 38 years old. One of her teachers even called her “an old parrot who does not know how to learn.” Nazaré not only learned, but became a Chief because of her determination to ignore the insults.

Today, she’s encouraging all the Waiapi women to go to school in order to protect their people.

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“She always tells me to be chief in the future,” Nazaré’s daughter, Karota Waipapi, says, “to talk to all the relatives, to talk with the young people as well, so that the young people speak what she says.” Nazaré feels an urgency to pass on traditional plant medicine now that Bolsonaro has cut the budget for health care workers in indigenous communities. Back in the 1970’s, when miners illegally deforested much of the Waiapi’s land, it took far too long for the government to respond to a measles outbreak that decimated the population. Only 150 people were left by the time the vaccines came. 

Bolsonaro has rejected $20 million in aid from G7 to fight the fires, citing their aid as “imperialist.”

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The Waiapi people have long been in danger from the mere contact with other Brazilians. Today, Brazil’s careless policies that value agribusiness over people may be the end of the Waiapi unless the public steps up to fight Bolsonaro’s policies.

READ: Leonardo DiCaprio Is Helping To Lead The Fight Against The Amazon Forest Fires