Crisis in Venezuela


 

“Venezuela’s government must work toward achieving a true culture of democracy for our region. There’s no room for persecution based on      ideological reasons or for thinking differently.”
– Mauricio Macri

 

 

                       Facts:

      Where:

           Venezuela

      Population:

          32.3 million

      Refugees:

          2 million since 2015 (4 million since                1999)

      Internally Displaced People:

           Over 1.5 million

     Detainees:

           Approximately 340 political prisoners

     Maternal Deaths:

           756 in 2016 alone

     Infant Deaths

           11466 in 2016 alone

 

 

“The infrastructure, institutions and social fabric of Venezuela are deteriorating, and people realize the Chavez government has been the problem, not the solution.”
– Leopoldo Lopez

                 Overview

Beginning in 2012, Venezuela began to sink into an economic crisis that was fuelled by poor government management of the economy and was worsened by a sharp drop in oil prices in 2015. Amongst other issues, this resulted in reduced spending on social welfare programs, that had previously been created by President Hugo Chavez, following the country’s economic boom due to rising oil prices in the early 2000s. This crisis has resulted in a breakdown of the economy, hyperinflation, food scarcity, child malnutrition, rising infant and maternal mortality rates, a resurgence of previously eradicated diseases, soaring unemployment, rising crime and homicide rates, lack of medicines and medical supplies, shortages of basic imported goods, housing shortages, anti-government protest crackdowns, human rights violations, the rise of the black market, political and military corruption, and unprecedented emigration. Almost 90% of the population currently lives in poverty. There is no clear end to this conflict, until the Venezuelan government acknowledges their part in enabling the crisis, allows food, medicine, and humanitarian aid to flow into the country, and works to stabilize the economy to protect their citizens from further suffering.

                 Key Actors:

  • The Venezuelan Government, led by President Nicolás Maduro, has been accused of enabling the crisis through poor economic management and government corruption. The party is supported by the Constituent National Assembly, an elected body charged with drafting Venezuela’s new constitution, and made up almost entirely of government supporters. The government is also supported by the Great Patriotic Pole, an alliance of several political parties that support Maduro – including Maduro’s own party – and many pro-government community groups and paramilitaries (known as colectivos).
  • The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) is a catch-all coalition of roughly 15 government opposition parties. They are supported by a number of Latin American and Western states along with the European Union and NATO.
  • The Lima Group is a coalition of 13 Latin American countries, plus Canada that was formed as a response to the Venezuelan crisis, mediating and working to end the crisis.
  • The United States imposed financial sanctions against Venezuela in 2017, and again in the wake of the 2018 election, which was declared an unfair “sham” election, by many opposition members in Venezuela and a number of other countries.
  • The United Nations has heavily condemned the Venezuelan government’s treatment of its citizens, the human rights abuses committed by the government, and the “erosion of democratic institutions.”

 

                                                 Timeline:

  • December 1998 – Hugo Chavez is elected as President and ushers in a new age in Venezuela defined by costly social welfare programs, closing the gap on wealth inequality, and reducing poverty – all financed by surges in oil prices, which make up 95% of Venezuela’s revenue.
  • 5 March 2013 – Chavez dies after a two-year long cancer battle. He names Nicolás Maduro as his preferred successor before his death.
  • 14 April 2013 – Maduro wins the presidential election by a 1.5% margin.
  • 1 February 2014 – Opposition leader Leopoldo López calls on students to protest against scarcity, shortages, and government corruption and mismanagement.
  • 2 February 2014 – Other opposition leaders call on people to protest on 12 February, National Youth Day.
  • 4-11 February 2014 – Small student marches are held across universities and colleges.
  • 12 February 2014 – First major protests against the government begin in 38 cities, many of them led by opposition leaders and consisting of student marchers. The protests continue through March and turn violent when opposition protestors clash with pro-government groups and government security forces, and several students are arrested.
    • A Colombian news channel is taken off the air by the Venezuelan government for its “biased” coverage of the protests.
  • 13 February 2014 – Maduro organized pro-government rallies and prohibited violent anti-government demonstrations.
    • A judge accepts a petition from the Attorney General’s office to detain López.
  • 18 February 2014 – López turns himself in to the Venezuelan National Guard. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch call for his release, particularly in the wake of further violent protests between government supporters and opposition protesters.
  • 23-24 February 2014 – Tens of thousands of government and opposition protesters take to the streets again in the capital Caracas and in San Cristóbal.
  • 5 March 2014 – Venezuela cuts diplomatic ties with Panama, who called for intervention in the country to manage protests.
  • 7 March 2014 – The Penal Court brings 40 alleged human rights violations regarding the 12 February protests, to the government.
  • 8 March 2014 – Venezuela cuts economic ties with Panama.
  • 15 March 2014 – Maduro acknowledges that the government has detained 1529 people since the protests began.
  • April 2014 – Violent and peaceful protests continue throughout April and May, while an estimated 28 people were killed in the past two months of protests and riots.
  • 24 May 2014 – 100 days of protests are marked with further marches.
  • 27 June 2014 – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expresses concern about human rights abuses and violations in Venezuela.
  • 2014 – Protests in cities and towns across the country continue for the rest of the year, with protestors ranging from laborers, students, doctors and nurses, mothers and fathers, politicians, and many more. The protests themselves focus on government human rights violations, food and goods scarcity, poverty, oil prices, government corruption, and a host of other issues.
  • 12 January 2015 – Opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski calls on opposition protesters to mobilize after increasing food shortages and long lines at supermarkets.
  • 23 May 2015 – Imprisoned opposition leader Daniel Ceballos and López announce they are beginning a hunger strike and call on opposition protesters to mobilize for a mass protest.
  • 30 May 2015 – Around 200,000 people collectively protest in cities across the country, demanding the arrest of protesters along with a set date for the next parliamentary elections.
  • 10 September 2015 – After spending a year and a half imprisoned, López is found guilty in a corrupt trial and is sentenced to 13 years in prison.
  • December 2015 – Venezuela’s homicide rate grows to the world’s highest, after think tank Observatory of Venezuelan Violence, finds that 27,875 homicides were committed in 2015; a rate of 90 per 100,000 people.
  • 6 December 2015 – Congressional elections are held, and MUD gains a majority in the National Assembly, winning 109 of a possible 164 seats.
  • January 2016 – Unemployment hits 18%.
  • 27 March 2016 – A poll from pollster group Datanalisis finds that two-thirds of Venezuelans want Maduro to end his presidency this year.
  • 30 March 2016 – The opposition-led National Assembly introduces legislation to release the 70 opposition leaders arrested in the past two years of protests.
  • 2 May 2016 – Opposition politicians deliver a petition with 1.8 million signatures asking for Maduro’s removal, pushing for an official referendum on the issue.
  • 1 September 2016 – Opposition protesters march in Caracas demanding the National Electoral Council (CNE) hold a referendum to recall Maduro.
  • 21 October 2016 – The CNE suspends the referendum, citing voter fraud as the reason. This sparks more protests.
  • 26 October 2016 – Foreign journalists are barred from entering Venezuela, as 1.2 million people across the country protest against Maduro’s rule, and demand he leave office.
  • 7 December 2016 – Vatican-backed discussions between Maduro’s government and the opposition stall, after the government refuses to release prisoners and hold recall elections.
  • January 2017 – Central bank figures show that inflation rose 800% in 2016 – the highest in Venezuela’s history – while GDP shrunk 18.6%.
  • 12 January 2017 – Several opposition leaders and politicians are arrested by the government for allegedly attempting a coup.
  • 19 January 2017 – The Vatican officially leaves peace talks between the two parties.
  • 23 January 2017 – Small marches continue throughout the country, due to fears of repression from the government, who close public transportation and set up police roadblocks and checkpoints in an attempt to minimize numbers.
  • 29 March 2017 – Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ; the highest court and head of the judicial branch) takes over all legislative powers from the opposition-majority National Assembly. This decision was reversed a few days later, on the 1st of April.
  • 14 April 2017 – The opposition calls for a large scale “mega-march” on 19 April; Maduro announces the creation of 2000 security checkpoints and 200,000 additional authorities to stop the march.
  • 17 April 2017 – Maduro orders the expansion of the Venezuelan National Militia to include 500,000 of his most loyal supporters.
  • 19 April 2017 – The “Mother of All Protests” begins, with increasing violence, resulting in 520 arrests. News outlets estimate anywhere between hundreds of thousands to 1.2 million protesters participated.
  • 24 April 2017 – A peaceful national sit-in is held across the country, bringing the day to a complete stop.
  • May 2017 – Hundreds of thousands continue to march throughout the month.
  • 1 May 2017 – Maduro announces plans to replace the National Assembly with a “communal national constitutional assembly” who would draft a new constitution to replace the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution.
  • 15 May 2017 -A second national sit-in occurs, blocking traffic across the country for twelve hours.
  • 20 May 2017 – The 20th day of consecutive marches is marked by millions of protesters in Caracas, in the “We Are Millions” march, resulting in 90 injuries after authorities responded with violence.
  • 3 July 2017 – The opposition announces they will hold an unofficial referendum asking for thoughts on the creation of a constitutional assembly, the government’s actions, and the military.
  • 5 July 2017 – National Guardsmen stand aside as government supporters and armed groups storm the National Assembly and attack opposition members, injuring 12 people.
  • 8 July 2017 – López is placed under house arrest to serve out the remainder of his sentence.
  • 16 July 2017 – The opposition’s referendum is held, and finds 99% of voters do not want to elect a new Constitutional Assembly, want the military to respect the 1999 Constitution, and want new general elections to be held and the establishment of a “Government of National Unity.”
  • 20 July 2017 – Millions participate in a 24-hour general strike bringing the work day to a standstill, despite threats from Maduro against small business owners.
  • 30 July 2017 -Elections are held for the Constitutional Assembly, despite widespread international condemnation. The opposition boycotts the election, and the majority of elected members are Maduro supporters and loyalists.
  • 2 August 2017 – The CEO of Smartmatic, who run Venezuela’s voting machines, say tampering by the CNE was highly likely during the election, and Maduro’s claim that eight million votes were cast was wrong by at least one million votes.
  • 4 August 2017 – The Constitutional Assembly is sworn in and promptly dissolves the National Assembly.
  • 5 August 2017 – Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, a critic of Maduro, is dismissed from her role by the Constitutional Assembly.
  • 18 August 2017 – The Constitutional Assembly assumes the powers of the National Assembly.
  • 15 October 2017 – Regional elections are held and the CNE claim Maduro’s party won 17 of 23 governorships in the country.
  • 16 October 2017 – The Minister of Interior Justice and Peace bans all organised protests until 3 November 2017.
  • 1 November 2017 – The attorney general announces plans to prosecute protest organizers.
  • 10 December 2017 – Municipal elections are held, and the government claims victory in 306 municipalities.
  • 11 December 2017 – Maduro announces three opposition parties would be banned from participating in the 2018 general election due to their boycott of the municipal elections.
  • January 2018 – Inflation rose over 4000% in 2017, according to independent economists and opposition parties.
  • 1 January 2018 – Maduro announces a 15% raise in minimum wage due to hyperinflation.
  • 7 February 2018 – Dominican Republic-backed talks between the government and opposition are suspended.
  • 21 February 2018 – An annual survey published by three Venezuelan universities finds that 25% of the population is eating two or less meals a day and 90% of the population currently lives in poverty.
  • April 2018 – Approximately 728 protests and marches took place throughout March.
  • 20 May 2018 – After being brought forward from a late-2018 date, the presidential elections are held and Maduro is elected for a second term, after most opposition leaders boycott the snap election, which was also condemned by international institutions, other nations, and NGOs. Many nations, including the Lima Group, the United States, and the European Union, refuse to recognize the results of an unfair and rigged election.
  • 5 August 2018 – Two drones explode near President Maduro during a televised speech. The President accuses Colombia and the US, saying it was a right-wing plot to kill him.
  • 20 August 2018 – In an attempt to counteract massive inflation, Venezuela slashes five zeros from its old currency and renames it the Sovereign Bolivar
  • 22 September 2018 – Following a NY Times report, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry denounces US intervention plans to help military conspirators overthrow President Maduro
  • 9 October 2018 – Venezuelan dissident Fernando Alban dies in custody by supposedly jumping from a 10th floor window. Alban had been arrested following a trip to New York where he spoke out against President Maduro

                                        How You Can Help:

  • All For Venezuela and Cuatro por Venezuela Foundation are both nonprofit organisations that partner with other local nonprofits and individual donors to provide financial aid and physical donations to Venezuelans in need.

  • The Venezuelan Society of Palliative Medicine is another nonprofit comprised of various healthcare professionals that work to treat Venezuelans suffering from “chronic, advanced, and progressive diseases.”

  • The World Food Programme is a humanitarian aid organisation that is currently seeking $US46 million in order to deliver food aid to some 350,000 Venezuelan migrants who have crossed the border into Colombia.

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