Venezuela’s downward spiral into chaos and the collapsing economy coupled with high levels of violent crime forces more than four million people to leave the country as accused illegitimate president, Nicolas Maduro, moves to crush political opposition. The crisis means that Venezuela is now “one of the single largest population groups displaced from their country”, according to UN refugee agency (UNHCR).
Under Nicholás Maduro’s administration, the country’s economy has plummeted resulting into shortages of food, medical supplies and frequent electricity blackouts. Oil production is the backbone of Venezuela’s economy but oil output has been declining since the country hit crisis levels. Many Venezuelans are struggling to even afford basic items due to excessively high levels of inflation.
As the economic crisis deepens, many women in hospitals and in need of abortions are forced to make life threatening decisions like performing in home abortions themselves. Abortion is illegal in the country and is punishable with up to 2 years of jail time. Without access to proper healthcare, women often end up in the hospital with severe complications even in childbirth and are left to fend for themselves. With teen pregnancies on the rise and the lack of medical supplies, thousands of pregnant Venezuelan woman are making the grueling journey across the border to Colombia so they can safely give birth. Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis is shattering families and putting women and young girls at risk for exploitation and sexual assault along with other forms of gender-based violence.
In January, opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself as acting president and directly challenged the power of President Maduro. The United States and other Western countries support Juan Guiado as the president of Venezuela. Guiado, and Western countries, argue that he is the true President of Venezuela because he is the head of the National Assembly.
After the longtime socialist President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, died in 2013, Nicolas Maduro who was Chavez’s Vice President was elected to replace him. Chavez left a strong economy for Maduro which allowed him to continue funding Chavez’s socialist programs. However, the economy was heavily oil dependent and when oil prices began to drop Maduro was unable to continue funding Chavez’s programs. Since 2013, Venezuelan GDP has dropped over 50 percent and more than 90 percent of the country lives below the poverty line.
Media Resources: BBC News 6/7/19, BuzzFeed News 2/28/19, BuzzFeed News 9/30/18, Feminist NewsWire 2/27/2019, Washington Post 2/26/19, PBS News Hour 2/18/19; Medium 1/24/19; The Guardian 12/6/18