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The Impact of the Venezuelan Crisis on its Citizens
Venezuela is one of the most oil rich countries in the world. When President Hugo Chavez took office in 1999 he instituted many government subsidies through the spending of oil revenues. He offered common items, such as sugar, rice and toilet paper, to the citizens of Venezuela at costs below the actual cost of production. When the oil industry plunged, so did the economy of Venezuela. Under the same political party as Chavez, current President Nicolas Maduro is leading his country to disaster. Because of its political socialism, the citizens of Venezuela now are facing devastating hardships including extreme food and medicine shortages, power outages, increased inflation and dealing with price gauging in the black market. With current efforts of political opposition being stopped to vote Maduro out of office, there is little to no hope of a change in the near future. Desperate for survival, many Venezuelan citizens are seeking measures to make their individual situations better including leaving to country.
Food is sparse and expensive. The citizens of Venezuela are subjected to a lottery type system when attempting to purchase food. They must wait in hours long lines on their assigned day and can only purchase what is available to them in the store that day, not what is actually needed. A purchase could consist of only butter and ketchup. Riots have broken out and stores looted for basic necessities and any food items that people can get their hands on. Citizens are waiting to cross borders into neighboring Columbia in order to get food to feed themselves and their families.
This shortage and rationing is also seen for things like soap, shampoo, toilet paper, diapers and other toiletries. There are reports of citizens flying to the United States just in order to find these basic necessities.
There are severe medicine shortages throughout all of Venezuela. Doctors and hospitals in outside of the country’s capital city of Caracas have to face sick patients with no medicinal defense and risk illness themselves. Most patients are turned away as any available medicine can only be found in Caracas. Without patients to treat, these citizens are seeing little to no income to support themselves and their families. Those citizens that are lucky enough to find a facility with medicine risk run in’s with criminals attempting to steal the medicine supplies they can find in order to sell them on the black market for multiple times the actual value. The citizens use social media as a means to find, trade, purchase and sell medicines that they or loved one’s need. Because of a lack of medicine, Venezuela is seeing an increase in unnecessary deaths. It is also seeing the rise of diseases like Malaria, which was eradicated from the country decades ago.
The infrastructure to support energy use in Venezuela is poor and growing weaker. But there are little to no resources, financial and human, to get this issue resolved. As a result, the Government cut its workweek back to only 2 days. And there are rolling black outs that effect different parts of the country on different days of the month. Citizens can go days without power in their homes and businesses because the government simply turns it off.
According to the International Monetary Fund inflation in Venezuela is expected to reach 480% in 2016 , rise to 1640% by 2017 and still continue to rise in the years after that. Unemployment went from approximately 7% in 2013 and will close 2016 at 17.4% and reach over 20% and rising in 2017. The inflation rate is increasing so rapidly because the money is being ordered and printed by the government, but has no value behind it. This impacts the citizens as there is less money being earned, yet everything costs significantly more to purchase. Venezuela is currently ranked the third most expensive country in the world to live in, which for comparison sake is 11% more expensive then living in New York City. But the average per capita income for Venezuela is only $10,755. Citizens are suffering to survive under these economic conditions.
The future seems very bleak for the citizens of Venezuela. Many have no option but to stay and make the best of an awful situation. Those that can are attempting to leave the country, but the government is not making this an easy task with increased travel restrictions and lack of transportation options. Most citizens can only hope that this current situation can and will only get better with time. But with no indication of a change in power or government procedure in the foreseeable future, this, sadly, has become the new way of life for a once thriving country.