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

Protesters have filled the streets in Venezuela amidst calls of a rigged election for President Nicolás Maduro. The socialist leader declared himself president on Wednesday despite overseeing one of the most devastating economic collapses. The leader of the opposition party, Juan Guaido, declared himself the interim president with the support of the Venezuelan people and the National Assembly prompting support from several governments around the world. The turn of events in Venezuela has many fearing violence and government opposition in what has already been tumultuous years in the South American country.

Venezuela is trying to cut off relations with the United States due to their support of Guaido.

Maduro’s government responded to the U.S. backing Guaido by saying he no longer recognizes diplomatic relations with the United States. He gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave Venezuela. While Guaido doesn’t plan on keeping the title of president indefinitely, he says he will call for new elections in the near future.

“Today, I am officially recognizing the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the Interim President of Venezuela,” President Trump said in a statement. “In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolás Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant. The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”

Guaidó and other world leaders say the rigged vote means that he, as the President of the National Assembly (the country’s legislative body), is the true leader of the country. Guaidó started country-wide protests on last week to force President Maduro’s resignation showing the growing displeasure of his leadership.

Protesters took over city streets across Venezuela and some turned deadly.

There have been protests in support of Guaidó and even some for Maduro across cities in Venezuela. According to the CNN, 40 people have been killed in the civil unrest as military officials have used violent force against protesters. The protests began coinciding with the anniversary of the 1958 coup that overthrew military dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, a historic date for Venezuelans.

The growing unrest in Venezuela is due to years of economic mismanagement, repression and corruption cases that have plagued the country. These conditions have led to millions of people being driven out of the country amid inflation and severe shortages of basic items like food and medicine.

While Guaidó has the support of many Venezuelans, experts say it’s unlikely he will succeed.

While Guaidó is the leader of the National Assembly, President Maduro still controls many of the country’s most powerful institutions, particularly the military. It will mostly take outside interference to be able to take down Maduro’s regime.

This is where things can get ugly as the U.S. might be that force that will have to get involved if things don’t improve rapidly in Venezuela. Venezuela’s military has pledged its support for Maduro showing that his downfall won’t be happening anytime soon.

“Anyone can declare himself president, but it’s the Venezuelan people who elect him, not the gringo government,” Maduro said to his supporters in a rally.

What’s next for Venezuela?

It’s hard to say what will happen next as Maduro still has so much power and is technically still the president of Venezuela. On Thursday, President Maduro ordered all of Venezuela’s diplomats in the U.S. to leave and said the country’s embassy and consulates in the U.S. will close as well.

By cutting off relations with the U.S., he is signaling to the world this will be the direction for the country moving forward. At the White House, Trump said “all options are on the table” should Maduro refuse to resign. One thing is clear from the growing turmoil, the people of Venezuela are being hurt the most in all of this.

“All of us want a change, a political change that helps us get over this terrifying crisis,” Adrian Cordero, a 32-year-old mechanic in Venezuela told the LA Times. “We’re hoping for a change that enables us to reunite with our family members who have left the country so as not to die of hunger. The country can’t tolerate this situation.”


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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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. 

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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. 

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