CARACAS, Venezuela — For the past three years, Venezuela has been in an economic crisis. It is so severe that the country is facing shortages of food and other necessities. Venezuelans spend hours in lines to receive small rations and many have resorted to looting.
Public anger towards the inactivity of the government has culminated into protests all over the country. Currently, there are the U.S. and Vatican backed peace talks in Venezuela between President Maduro and the opposing parties to unify the country and to find solutions to their economic and political problems.
The situation in Venezuela can be divided into three main areas:
Oil makes up 95 percent of Venezuela’s export revenue. However, crude oil prices have declined sharply because of the current surplus of oil in the market. Oil costs half of what it cost in 2014, leaving the government with little revenue. There are fewer oil rigs and many companies have shut down because they are not being paid.
Without oil revenue, Venezuela’s economy is suffering. The bolivar (Venezuela’s currency) is currently worth 99.4 percent less than it was five years ago. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the inflation rate will grow by 1,642 percent in 2017. The government is constantly printing money and borrowing large amounts, only adding to their debt. Government action has been slow to fix the economy because of the political tension between parties.
President Nicolás Maduro’s inactivity has enraged the citizens as well as the opposition parties. This year the opposition proposed a recall referendum on President Maduro but was immediately blocked by electoral authorities.
According to the Washington Post, “Opposition legislators argue that Venezuela’s leader has effectively abandoned the presidency by neglecting his job. And many Venezuelans blame him for the country’s triple-digit inflation, free falling economy and shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods.”
Protesters are marching in the streets of Caracas and other cities to show their discontent with the president and the opposition. They have shut down highways and streets. During the protest, protesters chant “Democracy yes!, Dictatorship no!” and complain that they are going hungry.
Unfortunately, these protests have gone violent. There has been numerous confrontation between the protesters and the police in which protesters have been tear gassed and wounded.
Peace talks in Venezuela are attempting to unite the government, get Venezuelans the basic goods they need and above all else stop further violence. Present in the first round of talks were President Maduro and members of the opposition parties as well as archbishops from the Vatican and the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas Shannon mediated.
The presence of an American ambassador is unusual as Venezuela and the U.S. have had a hostile relationship in the past. The Obama administration imposed economic sanctions against Venezuela and also declared Venezuela “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the U.S. security.”
Nonetheless, President Maduro invited Shannon to the talks in Caracas. Shannon mentions “it’s worthy of our support and it’s worthy of the support of the international community, and we will continue to do so as long as it remains viable.”
The most important thing that has been addressed in the talks is the blocked recall referendum. Ambassador Shannon says “both sides have decided they need to address the issue of elections and they need to establish some kind of electoral agenda going forward that will send a very clear message to Venezuelan that they will have the right to vote.” But as of right now there has been no electoral agenda presented.
There are still more peace talks in Venezuela to take place this year. The talks can be valuable if both parties, with the help of Vatican and the U.S. mediation, address the issues concerning the economy and politics.
– Karla Umanzor