Unraveling Venezuela: Identifying Food Shortages, Violence, and Social Strife

Children queue as they wait to receive free food which was prepared by residents and volunteers on a street in the low-income neighborhood of Caucaguita in Caracas, Venezuela.
Suzette Gutierrez- Cachila Gospel Herald, 2016.

Venezuela as it stands is facing an economic crisis due to the political processes of the past 20 years. A main facet of this crisis is the shortage of common necessities for the general public. These necessities, most primarily food and medical treatment, are causing a human rights crisis. The main actors of this case include the current president Nicolas Maduro, the past president Hugo Chavez, the self proclaimed leader Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan lower to middle class, who are the most affected by these shortages. Chavez helped lay the foundation for these policies which led to shortages, while Maduro has been responsible for carrying them on. By carrying them on, he is seeing through the government policies to an unsustainable stage in which a large percentage of the public suffers greatly. Guaidó has reacted to these actions by proclaiming himself the leader of Venezuela and demanding that the country should allow itself to accept aid. Several organizations have tried to get involved with this case, including Amnesty International and the United Nations. Their main purpose was to provide direct aid to the Venezuelans in need, largely by sending supply trucks into the country to give citizens some reactionary form of solutions to their hunger. However, the Venezuelan government’s refusal to admit that there is a crisis occurring has led them to try and turn away these organizations from helping their people. To the government, they believe that their citizens are simply exaggerating their circumstances or are not rationing their food properly. Maduro, in particular, does not want Venezuela to be seen as a country of “beggars” if they were to accept aid from the U.S. In reality, the necessity shortages are caused by government policy, particularly import reliance, price controls, and the overall precedent set for corruption within the Venezuelan government. This lack of and complete avoidance of introspection by the Venezuelan government has allowed this problem to escalate especially within the past five years.

People walk at the refrigerated foods section inside a Makro supermarket in Caracas, Venezuela.
Luke Graham, CNBC, 2017

The food shortage crisis is a prime example of just how messy and conflicting human rights cases can be for those seeking to help and those who need the help. A major issue it addresses is the idea of over involvement by countries like the United States. Although Maduro is allowing for these shortages to happen and is refusing to acknowledge his fault in them, he does have a point in worrying about foreign involvement in Venezuela. This is because, although the heavily U.S. influenced NGOs mean well in their aid and are more than willing to give this aid, there have been cases in the past where the U.S. got overly involved in Latin American countries (and countries across the globe in general) in which they simply destabilized it more. This was seen in our class before in El Salvador during the 1980’s in which the U.S.’s initial “alliance” with El Salvador turned into them only aligning themselves with the elite and thus hurting campesinos even more through their “Yankee imperialism.” This brings up a common dilemma in human rights of whether giving help would make a nation better or worse off. For a situation like necessity shortages, one would assume that direct aid would be the best route to go since hunger requires an immediate action. However, some one time aid could turn into decades worth of unjust relations and the U.S. in particular forcing its ideals of what seems right for a completely different country. At any rate, it would appear that Venezuela will have to make some internal changes of its own in order to resolve this problem in the smoothest way possible. However, internal changes require action from the government and acknowledging the problem and its extent, which the government, at least under Maduro, is very reluctant to do.

An aid worker helps feed Venezuelan migrants in border city Cucuta, Colombia
DW (Venezuela: UN Agency warns of humanitarian ‘catastrophe’)

In order for this problem to be resolved, government action and reconciliation will most likely have to be taken. This problem began in the first place because of faulty government economic policy and lack of foresight for the consequences of heavily relying on oil and misused liberal economic policies to govern a country like Venezuela. With something as tangible as necessity shortages, the government could start reconciling this problem by giving aid directly to those affected by the shortages. However, it is uncertain how this is to be done by the government itself since their entire system is made to let this happen. Reconciliation could also be achieved through the imprisonment or exile of Maduro and the officials which allowed this problem to form the way it did. Legal action could be taken against Maduro since his governing of the country was nothing short of negligent and he denied the suffering of a great number of his population. This, naturally, would need the support of the international community through the United Nations; however the case is on such an international stage already there is no doubt actions already trying to taken to imprison Maduro. An additional actor to think of is Guaidó, who could start moving the country in a more positive direction if he were to actually take power. He is obviously keen in seeking benefits for Venezuelan people, but whether this will be sustainable or not will only be found out as time passes.

Details into current situation throughout Venezuela’s capital city.
BBC, 2018.

To read our full report, please click here.

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