This past weekend, the accused illegitimate Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, sent military forces to the border to prevent civilians from receiving aid, a heightened response after his recent attempts to block aid at the border of Venezuela and Colombia; as a result 285 people were injured, 37 hospitalized, and 4 were killed. Maduro refuses to let humanitarian aid enter Venezuela as he views it as a means to undermine his administration and states that there is no humanitarian crisis going on, while 3 million Venezuelans have already fled the country.
Maduro has been attempting to block Western aid, which enters the country at the border between Venezuela and Colombia, because The United States and other Western countries are supporting 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.
A new research study found that women tend to suffer the most from border conflicts. Women face higher levels of sexual assault, kidnapping, and other forms of violence at the border. This research was conducted at the border town in Colombia, Cucuta, which has a large population of Venezuelan women and where many women have to pursue sex work as a means to provide for them and their family, and if they do not pursue sex work they will still face pressure from men to do so.
Sex workers in Cucuta also shared that individuals can make much more money if they go to work at the military camps in the rural areas. However, this is much more dangerous as the men are more aggressive. A woman who runs a charitable foundation for migrants in Colombia stated that generally if 30 women go to these camps, only 28 will return.
No one knows the true extent of sexual violence Venezuelan women face at the border, as most women do not report it to the Colombian government. In these rural areas women do not even have access to police offices. Women also fear that if they do report what happened to them that they will be deported and many of these women also do not have family to protect them should something happen to them. One Colombian woman who did report what happened to her was not believed by the police until she was examined at a hospital. Even then, the police told her she was not allowed to leave the town or else she would face violence.
Sexual violence is widely used as a means of territorial and social control in Colombia. One institutional representative shared with the researcher that “perpetrators take advantage of the fact that women are invisible, they know they won’t be held accountable.”
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: Washington Post 2/23/19; NBC News 2/21/19; Washington Post 2/26/19; PBS News Hour 2/18/19; Medium 1/24/19; The Guardian 12/6/18