In the months following the election of current president Donald Trump, many stark changes have been made in regard to administration and legislation. Of these changes, a widely disputed travel ban caused bipartisan controversy resulting in an almost immediate cancellation. Following the first failed travel ban, Trump recently rolled out a new set of travel restrictions. Announced Sept. 24, these new restrictions feature two additional restricted countries. Of the countries on therestricted list, one stands out as odd both geographically and politically — Venezuela.
The only South American nation to be featured on the list, Venezuela’s addition to the list comes as a blow to the people of country. Currently in a state of political upheaval, Venezuelans have little access to food and healthcare. Many government-funded institutions have shut down, and life is in a state of turmoil for much of the populace.
Exiting a period of relative economic stability, Venezuela’s swift decline began in 2014, following the death of the nation’s former leader, Hugo Chavez. Chavez was a political revolutionary who came to power in Venezuela in 1999, sparking a socialist revolution to the nation that focused on improving the daily lives of the Venezuelan people.
His economy was built on Venezuela’s key export: oil. Using the money from an invigorated oil-based economy, he built social reforms that improved the quality of life for Venezuelan people. While this provided temporary success for Venezuela, the unstable nature of oil prices set up the Venezuelan economy for failure.
Once known as the most successful country in South America, Venezuela’s GDP quickly tanked in 2014 as oil prices steeply dropped. In addition to the falling price of oil, Chavez died in 2014, leaving Nicolas Maduro to lead the failing nation.
The problems Venezuela is having are not strictly financial. Maduro’s role since taking office has been a steady consolidation of power. Lacking the charisma Chavez had, Maduro’s path to leadership has been fraught with tension. In May of 2016, Maduro attempted to remove the elected legislative body of Venezuela. While this decision was reversed within two days, the damage had already been done. Protesters took to the streets, crying out against the steep decline of GDP and the high rates of inflation and lack of representation that Maduro’s regime brought.
Unfortunately, the situation only continues to worsen. The people of Venezuela no longer have enough resources to survive. Families are forced to wait hours for the hope of food, and much of the healthcare system is inaccessible due to its cost.
Only further contributing to the problem, the Venezuelan bolivar has quickly depreciated in value. While Maduro officially holds an exchange rate of 10 bolivar to one U.S. dollar, this rate is reserved exclusively for government officials. The exchange rate for most of Venezuela is around 12,000 bolivar to 1 U.S. dollar. United States currency is so inaccessible that it is now sold largely on the black market in Venezuela.
The protests that have been a result of Maduro’s regime have seen close to 100 deaths and over 1,000 injuries. The people of Venezuela are suffering ,and the global community has done little to come to their aid.
New restrictions placed on Venezuela by the Trump administration affected business and tourism visas for government officials and their families. While this does not affect the majority of Venezuelan people, it was taken by the Venezuelan government as “an act of terrorism.” This follows the remarks by the Venezuelan foreign minister in the United Nations General Assembly regarding the Trump administration’s actions, alleging that U.S. sanctions were making Venezuelan people suffer.
It is the obligation of the international community to not just aid the people of the nation of Venezuela but to draw attention to the situation. As it stands, 85 percent of Venezuelans lack access to basic medical care. It is estimated that 87 percent of the population lacks access to adequate food and over 30 percent of school children are malnourished.
This crisis transcends political and economic struggles and deserves the attention of the international community. The people of Venezuela are suffering and will continue to suffer if they do not have a voice.