Updated: Venezuelan government denies foreign aid as crisis continues


photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Venezuelans march in government protest.

Steph Medina, Staff Writer

This story was updated on March 18 at 9:59 a.m.

The Venezuelan government is denying entry at its borders to any foreign aid from the United States. Brazil and Colombia have also sent supplies which were all turned away. Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro broke relations with the United States after President Donald Trump recognized Juan Guaidó the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly as the rightful leader of Venezuela.

Maduro and Guaidó are both battling for the presidency although Maduro officially became president after Hugo Chávez passed away in 2013. Guaidó claimed Maduro’s 2018 re-election for a second six-year term was illegitimate and then declared himself interim president on Jan. 23. Trump immediately showed his support for Gaidó as president, causing Maduro to cut ties with the U.S., and shortly afterwards, Maduro gave U.S. diplomats in Venezuela 72 hours to leave the country.

“Trump is now recognizing Guaidó as the president of Venezuela because Maduro was a terrible dictator,” senior Maria-Alejandra DePino said. “Trump wants to help someone who can benefit the country.”

While Maduro presided over Venezuela, the country sunk into its greatest economic crisis, with hyperinflation rates reaching 1.3 million percent by last November. Some of the countries that support Maduro’s presidency are China, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries and one of its longest-running democracies. Now they are in a debt they cannot afford to pay, which is why the U.S. is helping Venezuela, according to Jason Marczak, the Director of the Adrienne Arscht Latin America Center.

“The effects are reverberating across the region as Venezuelans flee government persecution and attempt to escape daily suffering,” Marczak said. “The massive migratory flows coming out of the country are placing a heavy burden on Colombia, which is being flooded with Venezuelans and needs assistance from the international community.”

For more than three months, thousands of citizens protested daily for a change in their government, yet still received no help from their leader. Protesters were composed of young students. Over 220 people were killed in the scenes of the protest and 5,000 people were arrested. There has since been a massive reduction in food and drug aid for the people.

“Food has been used as a political weapon to control the population and one of the many reasons Maduro has not allowed humanitarian aid into the country,” Diego Moya-Ocampos, principal analyst of Information Handling Services (IHS) Markit, said.

Guaidó, who is now recognized as Venezuela’s interim president by more than 50 countries, was recently on a tour of Latin America to gather support. Guaidó returned to Venezuela on Monday, March 4 despite Maduro threatening to arrest him if he came back.

“Back in our beloved land!” Guaidó said in a tweet on Monday. “Venezuela, we have just passed migration [controls] and we’ll move to where our people are.”

Maduro’s government increased federal funds, the minimum wage, and the prices on certain products. Stating that there was overhyping of an economic crisis, Maduro blamed the U.S. and several countries for the crisis that has taken over the Venezuela. His government has gone through billions of dollars in “oil-for-loan” deals.

“The oil that Venezuela currently exports to the US will be diverted to other countries and sold at lower prices,” Rystad Energy analyst Paola Rodriguez-Masiu said.

Maduro has commanded military officers to use trucks and cargo containers to block the border to keep people from leaving the country, but the U.S condemned Maduro for blocking the entry for humanitarian aid.

“I feel like they need to stop recklessly using their money,” DePino said. “They need to focus on their education…that could help them out a lot.”

Gaido is continuing to gain support as countries try to send aid however possible.

“We shout with resolve, ‘may oppression die,’” Guaidó said in front of supporters in the nation’s capital, Caracas. “They threatened us with jail, with death, but nothing will happen through persecution.”

UPDATE: A power outage left 22 out of 23 states in Venezuela in the dark on Thursday, March 7. Blackouts are already common in Venezuela, but this is the longest one to date. Citizens against Maduro blame him for mismanagement and a lack of investment leading to chaos on the streets. However, Maduro claimed the blackout was an “electronic coup” caused by “criminal minds.” The outage lasted six days straight throughout the nation and even longer in specific cities such as Maracaibo.