Venezuela: Lost… this time

Last Saturday a heroic attempt to bring food and medical supplies into Venezuela failed.

Two of the trucks that pushed through were burned as they attempted to cross the border. One of the drivers was killed. Young people tried to salvage what they could from the burning vehicles while others threw rocks under clouds of tear gas, attempting to protect their friends. 

Interim President Guaidó went in the first truck

At the Colombian border, people of all ages and backgrounds led by Interim President Juan Guaidó and members of the National Assembly, attempted to cross the three bridges that connect both countries. They were met by fully armed Venezuelan National Guards and bands of militants empowered by the regime to attack civilians. 

As the Aid supplies burned young people battled Maduro’s forces

On the southern border with Brazil, the First Nation Pemon people were merciless attacked by Maduro’s forces. Local reports reveal more than 30 killed and scores injured. The aid did not get through at this point either.

Maduro showed his true colors, caring more about remaining in power than allowing desperately needed food and medicines. Finally, the whole world was able to see plainly what Venezuelans have endured during his 6 years of despotic rule.

In another significant development, the day after the border showdown, Mexican-American award winning journalist Jorge Ramos was granted an interview with Maduro. Ramos, well known for his incisive questions and polite but direct style, ended up detained as Maduro abruptly left the interview when confronted with a video that a Ramos had taken earlier. The video showed three men eating out of what they could salvage from a garbage collection truck. The journalist’s equipment was confiscated, including cell phones, and they were all kicked out of the country the next day. Jorge Ramos described his experience in a New York Times piece.

These three stories undeniably point to the larger story the people of Venezuela face. Maduro has usurped power through a fixed election. The Venezuelan Constitution makes provision for situations like this in articles 233, 333 and 350 stating that in such cases the President of the National Assembly must take charge as Interim President allowing for elections to take place within 6 months. This is the legal standing in which he has taken authority for himself. 

The international community overwhelmingly responded positively to these developments in Venezuela, thus recognizing the Constitutional right for Juan Guiadó to be known as Interim President. Last January 23rd, immediately following the announcement from Caracas, United States President Trump was the first to affirm recognition for Guiadó. He was followed by the major Latin American nations and Canada, the European Union, Japan and others totaling more than 50 countries. China, Rusia, Turkey, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua still support Maduro’s illegitimate claim to the presidency.

Since Saturday, a steady number of National Guardsmen, both officers and soldiers, have crossed the border into Colombia and have pledged their support for the Constitutional process while denouncing Maduro as a cruel “usurper” who must go.

At this point Guaidó intends to keep the moral and political mandate as he seeks a peaceful resolution for the situation. 

Everyday people in Venezuela continue to face hunger and the threat of death as medicines are desperately needed.  

A Decisive Weekend for Venezuela and The Americas

This coming weekend, a slow but decisive process of change is launching. More than 50 nations have recognized Interim President Juan Guaidó who has put in place a recovery plan that starts with Humanitarian Aid of Food and Medicines. Maduro has said that the aid will not come and no one knows what will happen.

After 20 years of Chavez and his handpicked successor Maduro, his failed “Socialism of the 21st Century” has utterly failed. The country of my birth has gone from the land of plenty, where everyone had free access to quality education, decent free medical and dental care and where anyone who worked could provide food and shelter to their families, to a place characterized by despair, hopelessness and a distorted outlook on life.

Venezuela shamefully has the highest inflation rate in the world. By the end of last year, prices were doubling every 19 days on average. This has left many Venezuelans struggling to afford basic items such as food and toiletries. Income loses its purchasing power the moment it is received. The minimum monthly salary is equivalent to US$6, which currently buys three cans of tuna fish. As a result the body weight of Venezuelans has been reduced by an average of 19 pounds!

Venezuela had the most developed economy in Latin America. Since the end of World War II, the country experienced an unprecedented development boost, becoming a magnet for immigrants from Southern Europe, the Middle East and other Latin countries. In the 1980’s the economy began to wobble, its meltdown accelerated by the corruption and poor stewardship under Chavez and Maduro. 

By 2015 medical care collapsed as only 35% of hospital beds were available and 50% of operating rooms were not functioning due to lack of resources. In May of the same year the Venezuelan Medical Federation announced that 15,000 doctors had left the public health care system because of shortages of drugs, equipment and poor pay. Malaria, which was almost non existent in Venezuela, is now projected to rise to over 600,000 cases per year. Measles and diphtheria have also returned with a vengeance.

Life has only become worse for Venezuelans

Venezuelans have left the country in droves. Some estimates are as high as 4 million or 12% of the population. And many of those who have left in the past are not allowed re-entry back into Venezuela with their US visa. Venezuelans are regularly posting requests on social media for blood pressure medicine and other basic medicaments. Many of those supplies have been denied entry and stopped at the border. With Maduro’s announcement that the Brazil border will close, and possibly that of Colombia, this desperate need for supplies will only escalate.

American-Venezuelan family joining in protest in San Francisco, CA

This coming 23rd February, 2019 is the day when the Interim President of Venezuela Juan Guiadó has committed as the decisive moment when the International Humanitarian Aid will come in to begin the process aiming to end some of the darkest days in Venezuelan history.

President Guaidó commands the hearts and minds of the people

The best case scenario is that people will come to the border points to receive humanitarian aid and the Venezuelan soldiers will stand down, allowing them to move freely. Their mothers and siblings will be among them for they also face the same tragic reality.

The interim President has also established a distribution network designed to reach everyone in the whole nation. The BIG question is, “What will the Army do?”

Here’s how you can help Venezuela:

  • Watch Venezuela Live Aid and contribute towards the $100 million Richard Branson is seeking to raise.
  • Read more and share on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to create awareness of the needs.
  • Support Next Step as we fund agricultural projects and micro-enterprises in Venezuela.


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