BY: KATHERINE GAN, CONTRIBUTOR
For the past two years, Venezuelan citizens have marched to the streets to publicly decry the government’s actions. Due to dire political and economic conditions ravaging the country, such as chronic food shortages and power outages, Venezuelans have become fed up with their president, Nicolás Maduro. However, in response, Maduro has only quashed protests and become reliant on repressive measures to consolidate power. His policymaking has enabled Venezuela to become a power keg—ready to explode.
First, it is crucial to evaluate the causes of Venezuela’s current situation. The most notable reason is the country’s dependence on oil, which makes up 95 percent of export revenues. This single statistic is extremely dangerous due to the ongoing international oil glut, in which there is a far greater supply than demand for the natural resource. As a result, with falling oil prices, Venezuela loses potential revenue, which means less funding to spend on necessary goods for average citizens. But oil prices alone may not entirely explain Venezuela’s fall. Nicolás Maduro’s government management has been tainted by inadequate policymaking, as price and currency controls have persisted and funding has often reached the pockets of unaccountable officials instead of the hands of the people. Basic economic principles explain the main issue with having price controls. By expanding them to an increasing number of goods, such as car batteries, medical supplies, and toilet paper, store prices are even lower than production costs. Since businesses lose money when they abide to price controls, they have stopped providing their products altogether. This has extremely detrimental consequences for all citizens. Food shortages mean that families are forced to spend the night outside local grocery stores, waiting to be the first in line to purchase whatever rice or milk may be available. In addition, over 107 cases of looting have emerged as desperate Venezuelans resort to crime to feed their families. Moreover, the lack of essentials is not limited to foodstuffs. In fact, there has also been a shortage of medical supplies-such as syringes, gauze, needles, and even tools used in life saving surgeries. Consequently, thousands of patients remain ill and pharmacies, once full of necessities, are now empty. These despairing conditions have allowed Venezuela to become the breeding grounds for gangs and violence, as the country is on track to be the deadliest in the world. While some fight with their fists, others fight with their words, as protests have swept across the country.
Many Venezuelans are exasperated by Maduro’s lack of action and accountability; accordingly, tens of thousands of individuals have called for a referendum to oust Maduro from power once and for all. While these movements have received worldwide attention, Nicolás Maduro has responded quickly and cruelly, with the Venezuelan police firing tear gas at any dissenters. This reactionary response is yet another example of an untrustworthy and oppressive government. Maduro has only continued to expand his executive powers, as he was granted the ability to rule by presidential decrees last March. This overreach in power culminated in his decision to devalue the currency and raise gasoline prices. Both of these choices highlighted stricter government control over the economy, which the International Monetary Fund predicts with contribute to 760 percent inflation rate by the end of this year. Perhaps even more problematic than President Maduro’s reluctance to lift controls on the economy is his continuous shifting of blame. Last August, he closed the border between Colombia and Venezuela, citing Colombian smugglers as the cause for food shortages in the country. Refusing to admit his administration’s fault for causing the economic crisis, Nicolás Maduro has detained top executives at pharmacy corporations, claiming that they are intentionally keeping lines long. Instead of solving the fundamental problems, Nicolás Maduro provides temporary fixes-by declaring Fridays as holidays and moving clocks forward half an hour. Nonetheless, by continuously putting a bandaid on the gushing wound of Venezuela’s political and economic atmosphere, he has upset citizens and lost their trust. He has ignored his own country’s quagmire in hopes it will go away, but that only exacerbates current conditions. The Venezuelan people have made their call very clear. It’s time for Maduro to listen.