What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know

What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know
Photo - Reuters
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Venezuela, once Latin America's wealthiest country, has plunged into darkness. With its state powers locked in conflict and humanitarian agents kept at bay, the lives of Venezuelans are stifled by growing dissent, frequent blackouts and fast depleting rations.

What happened?

For them, trouble began as early as 2010 when populist policies under the then president Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution dragged the country into a socio-economic and political crisis.

This continued into the presidency of Nicolas Maduro and grew more severe as a result of the oil crisis in early 2015. In seeking to consolidate more power, Maduro annexed state institutions and rid government vessels of their powers until he met an unprecedented resistance in the people.

What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know
Photo - Reuters

Now, on the streets of Caracas, as trash bins are pillaged for food and as drinking water becomes increasingly difficult to find, the patience of the people is falling faster than Venezuela's GDP.

Riots and protests ensued but were quickly silenced by security forces which remain loyal to Maduro still, drawing the attention of international bodies.

What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know
Photo - Reuters

Who backs who?

World nations have taken notice and most have intervened. But however good their intentions, most attempts seem to focus more on securing rich oil reserves in Venezuela and less in actively resolving the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding there.

Donald Trump has issued an array of sanctions to restrict Maduro's oil sales – Venezuela's only way of survival after its economy plummeted. 56 nations including the US have backed the National Assembly leader Juan Guaido who is attempting to oust President Maduro.

What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know
Photo - Reuters

Despite this show of strength, they have been unable to budge Maduro, who controls the military and state vessels. He is backed by Russia and China, and recently Cuba too has lent support to Maduro regime by strengthening their security forces in exchange for free oil.

Power outages crippling under-staffed hospitals

In March, Venezuela experienced the longest nationwide power outage in world history.

What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know
Photo - Reuters

Maduro had labelled the outage as an act of sabotage by agents allied to the US. His adversaries, however, point to the rot at the nation's helm for the disaster.

At Venezuela's hospitals, frequent blackouts combined with the absence or poorly-trained staff has led to the death of many patients across the country.

Though electricity has been restored to the capital city of Caracas, many parts of Venezuela remain in the dark still with power only for several hours a day under a power-saving plan put into effect by the government.

What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know
Photo - Reuters

Venezuela's public hospitals for years have provided free adequate treatment, thanks to abundant oil revenue and generous health-care spending. But since the economy crashed along with oil prices in 2014, the scenario has drastically changed.

Maduro blames the healthcare problems on the US sanctions. His adversaries say otherwise. Incompetence and corruption, they say, have led to the severity of the situation and Maduro fail (or refuses) to recognize it.

What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know
Photo - Reuters

Millions have fled

More than 1.2 million Venezuelans have already fled seeking refuge in nearby countries. The border city of Maicao in northern Colombia is where most are headed. Venezuelans remember vividly how they provided refuge to Columbians in their time of civil conflict and have come expecting similar hospitality that they have once given.

The on-rush of refugees has strained public services like health centres and schools in the city prompting Columbia to seek UN help. UN also oversees a similar camp in northern Brazil. It estimates that roughly a quarter of the country's 30 million people need humanitarian assistance.

What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know
Photo - Reuters

Amnesty International had earlier asked the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged “crimes against humanity” committed by the government of Venezuelan President Maduro.

The group said that it had found evidence of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions and deaths and injuries since protests began.

According to a recent report, 47 people were killed and more than  900 arbitrarily detained over the five days of protests in January, including 770 detentions in just one day.

What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know
Photo - Reuters

Oslo talks

Talks are underway in Oslo between Maduro-led government and the 'democratic' opponents. The talks were arranged in the wake of opposition's failure to spark a military uprising.

While there is increased pressure to see that the talks lead to Maduro's departure and the restoration of a new democratically elected government, the reality will be far different. With the military's top brass now swearing their allegiance to Maduro, the tectonic plates of power have shifted.

Maduro has often called Guaido a US puppet trying to foment a coup. His recent attempt to stage an uprising gives more weight to this claim.

Guaido, who denounced Maduro's 2018 re-election as fraudulent, had called for Venezuela's military to rise up on April 30, but his push quickly petered out.

What is going on in Venezuela? All you need to know
Photo - Reuters

Many talks have happened between these two parties. They have only failed, dividing the opposition and buying more time for Maduro to consolidate power and quell street protests. This time, however, there is some hope of alleviating the tensions.

Norway has successfully brokered peace deals between forces in conflict before. The people of Venezuela now watch with bated breath to see if Norway would be able to broker a deal and instate peace.

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