No matter where you go, the topic of Venezuela is unavoidable. News stations have suddenly decided to turn an eye to this country and a crisis that many had not even heard of. One cannot help but feel a certain way about it – be it suspicion, disapproval, pity, or support. Unfortunately, many have taken this sporadic burst of information and have partaken in their journey to become a “Venezuologist.”
As a Venezuelan, it is incredible to see the number of experts on the situation in Venezuela skyrocket. What is even more baffling is that these people claim to speak for a community that they are not a part of, deciding and dictating what is good for a country they have never been to and will probably never set foot in.
So, I feel it is a duty to use my first-hand experience and background as a Venezuelan to shed light on a topic that has engulfed my life and the life of countless other Venezuelans. So, in brief, what is happening in Venezuela?
After years of rampant corruption, ineffective policies, and mismanagement of resources, the country’s ruling party has thrown the country into a spiral of crisis after crisis. Venezuela, once Latin America’s richest and most prosperous migrant hotspot, has now become one of the most miserable countries in the world, behind countries going through disastrous civil wars such as Syria or Yemen. Millions of people live in poverty, with thousands of Venezuelans starving. The situation is so dire, Venezuelan refugees will soon surpass Syrian refugees in number, creating Latin America’s biggest refugee crisis to date. This all happens while the self-proclaimed “socialist anti-imperialist” government officials live lavish lives, with their families all living abroad and living in mansions all over the United States, the very country they blame for Venezuela’s misery.
The people have tried peaceful protests; hundreds of thousands have poured out into the streets of major Venezuelan cities in order to demonstrate. However, they were met by the National Armed Forces who showed nothing but violence. Many were imprisoned and tortured, and many others were killed in cold blood during the protests.
During 2018, Maduro convoked the presidential election to be held in May of that year instead of December. These snap elections raised many questions about what was behind the motives of this change. More controversies arose as the government and the government-appointed electorate body – that needless to say is loyal to the regime – barred many top opposition leaders, some of whom were held as political prisoners, from running in these elections and handpicked the rest of the candidates.
The validity and credibility of these elections were even questioned by the company responsible for the electronic voting system, Smartmatic. The company claimed that they could not guarantee that the results would be fair. These reasons, coupled with a lack of impartial observers and moderators, pushed many to boycott these fraud elections. Unsurprisingly, Maduro won his second term in elections not recognized by the Venezuelan people and the international community, including many countries in Latin America.
Having said that, Maduro’s term was supposed to end on the 10th of January, but he chose to stay in power, using the sham elections as his justification. According to the Venezuelan Constitution, in cases like these, the president of the National Assembly has to act as an interim president until free and fair elections are held.
Unfortunately, the situation has only continued getting worse. On the 23rd of January, thousands of Venezuelans protested this breach of human and constitutional rights by demonstrating, not just in Venezuela but in countries all around the world. These protests even reached Beirut, where dozens gathered at Martyr’s Square. On this same day, the president of the National Assembly was sworn in as president in accordance with the constitution.
Over the past five years, we have had our fundamental human rights violated, which is never easy to come to terms with. Now, it has become even more difficult for all of us, as people with no actual knowledge of our country defend the dictatorship which has ruined my life, as well as the lives of millions of others. It is incredibly disheartening when a person chooses to ignore the criminal deeds committed by this regime, and continue to support them despite having a multitude of Venezuelans pleading for help and risking their lives for this same regime to change.
So, I call on every single one of these individuals to stand back, sit down, and listen. Listen to the voices of the people who actually understand the Venezuelan situation. Listen to those who have been personally affected by Maduro and his regime. Listen to those who have first hand experience and inside knowledge of the situation. Most importantly, listen to those who are risking their freedom, wellbeing, and lives for their voices to be heard.