~ By Akash Khemka
Venezuela, home to the highest uninterrupted waterfall on the earth. A home to islands, Spanish calls the pearl of the Caribbean. Home to the largest oil reserve, larger than Saudi Arabia. A home to Nobel Prize winners and was home to investments and talents. But now Venezuela is home to children who have been left out by their parents, home to daily hunger, it’s home to conflicts between politicians or it’s serving as a playground for political battles, and it’s home to millions of people who are fighting for food, medicines, and shelter.
We probably noticed that filling up the car with gas was a lot cheaper in the year 2014 than it was a few years ago that’s because the price of oil was dropped and well that’s great for the consumer but for countries like Iran, Russia and Venezuela whose economy rely heavily on oil exports expels disaster. Reports suggest that Venezuela was hit particularly hard by the oil price drop but why? And what was the country doing to help solve the problem?
Well, with one of the largest oil reserve in the world, Venezuela relies heavily on oil exports in fact oil generate around 95% of its hard currency income. So as oil prices were dropped by over half since June 2014, the Venezuelan economy has really suffered. The results of which can be seen in the lives of Venezuelan people. The country relies heavily on imports for food and other necessities was reported that long lines at state-run groceries stores were really normal as food supplies were extremely limited.
Venezuelan was pushed to the limit and army was even being called in to patrol food queues and keep order. Medical supplies were also a rare commodity in Venezuela. Unfortunately, Venezuelan had been in this position before prior to oil prices falling, the country had been in a deep recession with out of control inflation. The food and medical supplies were short in supplies for years and economists were placing the blame on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his unsustainable policies.
So what’s happening now in Venezuela? Nicolas Madura and Juan Guaido, both of these men claim to be Venezuela’s President, but who are they? And how two people can claim the same office? There is a power struggle happening right now in Venezuela. Nicolas Madura who has been president for the past five years and Juan Guaido, the opposition leader of the national assembly both say that they have the constitutional right to the office.
The disagreement has caused an international backlash and dozens of countries have taken sides but how did they reach this point? Guaido claims that the country has no legitimately elected president at the beginning of the new presidential term because of the disputed election, so he assumed office. On January 23, 2019, he has sworn himself as the interim president of Venezuela in front of thousands of supporters.
After this unprecedented move, leaders from around the world reacted. A number of Latin America countries like Columbia, Brazil, and Peru immediately came out for support to Guaido. His most notable supporter, however, was the United States. Shortly after swearing himself in as Interim President, the trump administration weighed in. Maduro accused the United State of planning a coup against his government. He cut off all diplomatic relation to the country and demanded all US diplomats leave Venezuela within 72 hours.
The US responded by placing sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA to halt US purchases on Venezuelan oil. The move is set to hurt the country’s already crippled economy since the US typically purchases roughly 40% of Venezuela’s oil. As things escalate between Maduro’s government and the US, other countries continue to pick sides. Some have recognized Guido yet others like Russia and China have referred their support for Maduro. This has made Maduro incredibly unpopular among his people within all-time low approval rating less than 20%. That plus his consolidation of power and the weakening of democratic institution in Venezuela created the political environment we see today. Juan Guaido and Nicolas Maduro come out victorious and their battle for the presidency, we have to wait and see.