CARACAS — Venezuela is one of the largest nations in Latin America and plays a prominent role in both the political and economic landscape of the South American continent. It is a nation with a vast amount of national resources and beauty. Venezuela holds the largest proven oil reserves in the world, surpassing Saudi Arabia in 2013. Yet, in spite of this immense stock of one of the most valuable resources of the modern world, the poverty rate in Venezuela has been historically high.
In the past couple of decades, the poverty rate in Venezuela has been quite volatile. Due to radically changing political and economic circumstances, the poverty rate has fallen and risen drastically several times. The election of President Hugo Chavez in the late 1990s brought a slew of strong populist policies. During the early and mid-2000s, the poverty rate in Venezuela decreased at a rapid rate, partially due to the increase in global oil prices. Between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of the population below the national poverty line decreased from 41.6 percent to 26.8 percent. Its GDP also grew dramatically, from approximately $84 billion in 2003 to $393 billion in 2010. Just from 2003 to 2004 the real growth rate of Venezuela’s GDP was almost 17 percent.
From 2010 to the present, Venezuela has experienced the reverse process, largely due to severe political turmoil and economic crisis and exacerbated by a fall in global oil prices. The World Bank reported an increase from 27 percent of people under the national poverty line in 2010 to 33 percent in 2016. In the same year, between 2015 and 2016, the GDP shrunk by 10 percent. There is some lack of information and transparency from the current Venezuelan government, which makes it hard to fully record accurate data. According to one of the most recent studies, 82 percent of Venezuelan households currently live in poverty.
There has also been a developing food crisis in the past years, due to severely worsening economic circumstances. In April of 2017, 11.4 percent of children in vulnerable areas were experiencing acute malnutrition, a drastic rise from 8.9 percent in October of the previous year. Humanitarian agencies generally declare 10 percent as a food crisis. Currently, 85 percent of families in susceptible areas report eating less and 44 percent of those same households report someone in the family going one whole day without eating at all.
Although the poverty rate in Venezuela is increasing rapidly and the food crisis is worsening, humanitarian aid is scarce. The current government denies that there is a humanitarian crisis and thus constantly refuses aid from agencies and organizations that offer help. Unless some type of change or action is enacted, it seems as if the situation will continue to worsen and more people will continue to suffer.
– Alan Garcia-Ramos