Life In Venezuela Under Maduro: After The Exodus

In recent years, Venezuela has gone through a crisis after crisis, with no end in sight. Since 2014, Venezuela has seen one of the largest forced displacements in the Western hemisphere, with 5.6 million Venezuelans leaving the country. In 2017, mass anti-government protests began to criticise President Nicolás Maduro’s leadership on the impact of hyperinflation on the economy and the arrest of political opposition leaders.

The subsequent election in 2018 handed President Maduro his second term in office. However, many viewed this election as corrupt, and a member of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, named himself the Acting President. A power struggle ensued, yet despite international support, President Maduro has kept hold of power. In the last month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced investigations into the country over crimes against humanity due to police treatment of protesters in 2017. This will be the first investigation of this type in South America. Additionally, the U.S. has now imposed sanctions on Venezuela to force the “illegitimate” Maduro from office.

Despite the pressure, Maduro has appeared open to the investigation. He stated that “together, the truth can be found,” however, he has also asked that the ICC investigate the U.S. for their sanctions on Venezuela. In the light of the investigations, Venezuelan citizens in 2017 described the event, saying “It’s madness… We have gone from an average of 30 wounded people to more than 65 in the last two weeks.” The police have been accused of “loading tear gas canisters with nails and marbles” to cause more damage to protesters.

The ICC Prosecutor, Karim Khan, said that the investigation would lead to “a pathway to justice for victims of atrocities by Nicolás Maduro’s government.” The office of the prosecutor announced that there were reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed in Venezuela. These included “imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty… torture… rape and/or other forms of sexual violence.”

In my opinion, the American sanctions currently being imposed on Venezuela are doing more harm than good. Not only have they failed to force Maduro out, but they are also worsening the already dangerously weak Venezuelan economy, which is harming its citizens. Despite this, I believe that Maduro should step down from the Presidency and Guaidó should become the interim President. This should create some much-needed stability in the country before legitimate elections can take place.

Whoever does eventually replace Maduro must, before anything else, deal with the hyperinflation. Last month, Maduro attempted to fix the problem by slashing six zeroes from the currency, this is only a temporary fix and does not address the issue at its root cause. Whether the solution is a switch in currency, or something else, a change must be made that attempts to deal with the issue directly.

While Venezuela’s mass exodus from the country began in 2014, its problems began much earlier. Before Maduro, Hugo Chavez was president. During his first year in office in 1999, there was a recession, and despite his efforts, Chavez failed to deal with it. The progress he did make faced strikes from workers, and an attempted coup. In 2012, he removed limits on presidential terms, effectively allowing him to run indefinitely, however, he died in the same year. Maduro took over in 2013, and a year later, Venezuela experienced one of the worst cases of hyperinflation since World War II, leading to a mass exodus, protests, and now an investigation into crimes against humanity.

Maduro’s presidential term ends in 2024, meaning he still has three more years in office. If things keep going the way they currently are, then any healing that could happen in Venezuela will likely occur only after Maduro is no longer president. Whilst Guaidó seems like Venezuela’s best hope for a solution for the country, forcing an unwilling Maduro to step down, may have a damaging impact. If this current tension between the government and the opposition worsens, then it could lead to further violence. To summarize, the next few years will be extremely tough for Venezuelans that have not yet decided or been able to leave the country.