Venezuelan crisis raises concern among students
Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s current president, was determined by major United Nations members to have won a fraudulent election in May 2018 which extended his rule over the country of 32.62 million people, 90 percent of which live in poverty.
The country has been deteriorating since Hugo Chavez’s tenure as president, and Venezuelan students at UH are dealing with these concerns every day.
“My mom has to go check every store that exists in my town to get whatever meat is found,” said journalism sophomore Daniela Benites. “Whenever there is a time where they really can’t find any meat, they have to buy it from people who resell it for more than double the price it’s worth.”
Venezuelan citizens have taken to the streets to add voice to their concerns. Tens of thousands of supporters heeded opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s call to protest their claims to Maduro, according to coverage by CNN.
Peaceful protests have not been spared from the violence.
“Generally, I wasn’t allowed to go to any protests because it isn’t safe,” Benites said. “Eventually somebody always ends up injured or dead.”
Some citizens have taken it upon themselves to become the figureheads of their local communities.
“My aunt is the leader of the opposition party in the town we’re from,” said political science senior Gustavy Niemtschik. “It’s pretty small so rallies stay peaceful for the most part.”
The United Nations Human Rights Office said on Jan. 29 that 41 people have been killed and 850 have been detained in the country from the recent power struggles between Maduro and the opposition leader reported United Press International.
However, some Venezuelan citizens refuse to leave their native country, citing bonds to the country powerful enough to convince them to stay.
“My family that lives in Venezuela have a tie to the country so strong they would never leave,” Niemtschik said.
This leaves local students often pondering what life must be like for their family members abroad.
“I often think about my life in comparison to theirs, but it’s been a 20-year decline and their decisions are their own,” Niemtschik said.
Meanwhile, the standoff between Maduro and Guaidó continues as Venezuela’s opposition is reportedly preparing to give out tens of millions of dollars in supplies to help ease the damages of the nation-wide shortages, according to a New York Times publication on Feb. 5. This could also be seen as an undermining of Maduro’s government, who has utilized food handouts as a tactic to keep his base loyal to him and his government.
Venezuela’s future remains unclear, as Maduro refuses to leave the government, and many countries — including the United States and the Trump administration — now recognize Guaidó as the interim president.
“If there is no other way to end Maduro’s regime than having U.S. military intervention, then I would go for it,” said Benites on what she would personally accept to get Venezuela back to the way it was. “However, if there are other methods, I wouldn’t risk losing more lives of innocent people.”