Anti-Government Protests Continue In Venezuela

Protests in Venezuela have continued into their fourth week as people remain adamant in their anti-government stance, calling for early elections and the release of political prisoners. The political situation in Venezuela has worsened in recent months with reports of food and medicine shortages forcing people to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. The latest report by Human Rights Watch details the extent of the crisis and its direct effect on the Brazilian state of Roraima and its healthcare system.

The influx of those seeking asylum is reportedly straining the public healthcare system in Brazil and further causing problems in the immigration department with a significant backlog of processed claims. The HRW report captured the deteriorating situation with the provision of the following statistics; the report states that ‘more than 12,000 Venezuelans have entered and stayed in brazil since 2014…the number of Venezuelans moving to Brazil has increased more than five-fold from 2014, reaching 7,150 during the first 11 months of 2016’. The lack of supplies and treatment in hospitals in Venezuela is directly linked to the ongoing political turmoil in the country where adequate care and stability is not being addressed by the current government in power.

The latest surge of protests has renewed attention to the autocracy of the Venezuelan government. In recent months President Nicolas Maduro has demonstrated his ability to exercise absolute control within the country, this caused an international outcry in March when the National Assembly was dissolved, and consequently its legislative powers. Although this decision was later reversed after severe global condemnation the plight for the restoration of democracy continues. Further outrage was caused by the decision to bar opposition leader, Henrique Capriles who narrowly lost to Maduro in the 2013 presidential election, from running for office for 15 years. The political instability of the country has penetrated deep into the structures of functional society which has created a lack of opportunity and success for Venezuelans and contributed to its unacceptably high violence and crime rate. The Venezuelan Violence Observatory (VVO) reported an increase in levels of violence, in 2016 ‘Venezuela experienced its highest-ever number of homicides: 28,479, or roughly 91.8 homicides per 100,000 residents’.

There have been some efforts from the wider international community to encourage recognition of the struggles of the Venezuelan people with The Organisation of American States recently meeting to discuss the deterioration of democracy and human rights. However, Venezuelans deteriorating humanitarian situation is something that President Maduro continues to fiercely deny. The leading powers in the country should, as a primary, accept responsibility and recognize the worsening political and humanitarian landscape so that progressive change can begin to occur.