Venezuela: Maduro’s reign of chaos

Venezuela has suffered for decades from corruption and power struggles between the government and its people, and Nicolas Maduro is only making things worse. Recent reports out of Venezuela paint a picture of living in a post-apocalyptic world under President Nicolas Maduro with government officials struggling to hold onto power, rebel groups taking up arms against the Maduro Regime, and black markets pulling out of the country because there is nothing of value left to trade.
Since 2014, Venezuela has been rocked by protests, political demonstrations and civil unrest as a result of the Maduro government’s controlled hyperinflation of their currency, government corruption and a shortage of food and goods for Venezuelan citizens.
On Nov. 1, 2017 Maduro increased the minimum wage of Venezuela by 30 percent, the USD equivalent of $4.30 at the black market exchange rate, effectively making the paper a bolivar is printed on worth more than the monetary value assigned to it. Patricia Lava and Catarina Saravia of the Bloomberg Market team added, “While Venezuela’s central bank stopped publishing inflation data in December 2015, the [International Monetary Fund] argues the country’s consumer prices are estimated to leap 2,349.3 percent in 2018, the highest in their estimates, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 44 percent. As oil production declines and uncertainty increases, unemployment is forecast to increase to about 30 percent in 2018, also the highest and followed by South Africa’s 28 percent and Greece’s 21 percent.”
Citizens have resorted to looting and stealing to feed themselves, going so far as to hunt down escaped wild stock and animals such as ant-eaters and flamingos in hordes. According to the 2016 living shortages survey, the average Venezuelan lost approximately 19 pounds in 2016 as a result of food shortages, resulting in house animals and pets to be added to their diets to fend off starvation. The study also found that an astounding 93.3 percent of Venezuelans could not cover the cost of food alone with their incomes.
Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index places Venezuela in 10th place among nations, ranking the country 166th place out of 176 countries. Since the discovery of oil in the early 20th century, corruption has only worsened as a result. The current leader, Nicolas Maduro, has been accused of such acts as nepotism, drug trafficking, stealing funds from the government and suppression of opposition movements.
Additionally, in 2016 the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project – henceforth referred to as OCCRP – a non-governmental organization which investigates crime and corruption, named President Maduro as Person of the Year, recognizing him as an “individual who has done the most in the world to advance organized criminal activity and corruption.” Maduro was selected due to the “strength of his corrupt and oppressive reign, so rife with mismanagement that citizens of his oil-rich nation are literally starving and begging for medicines,” in addition to suspicions that the Maduro family steal millions of dollars from government accounts to fund President Maduro’s power in Venezuela. OCCRP continues to explain how Maduro overruled the legislative branch, which was filled with opposition politicians, crushed citizen protests and has relatives who were found to be involved in drug trafficking.
According to reports by the New York Times and CNN, over 90 people have been killed protesting and 3,000 arrested just in 2017, resulting in full scale street fights to break out between government forces and local opposition groups. The increased hostility follows the killings or imprisonment of countless opposition leaders such as Oscar Perez, Luis Manuel Diaz, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, resulting in open hostility from protesters and advocates. The Maduro government has labeled most opposition groups as terrorists who wish to overthrow the government and cause instability in the region, enemies of the state and opponents to the socialist cause.
Government seizures are on the rise as well, with entire General Motors facilities and dealerships being “unexpectedly taken by authorities,” with assets such as vehicles being stripped from their facilities and operations being halted. As a result over 2,000 workers have been laid off and approximately 80 dealerships have been closed down per GM official statements.
Aside from war with Venezuela, there is little that can be done from the perspective of the United States. Foreign aid would be intercepted by government forces before it ever arrived to any citizens and economic sanctions on the nation have done nothing to alter the actions of Maduro’s government.