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Explained: What’s Going On In Venezuela And Why Citizens Are Burning With Anger

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In 1999, a man with much self-determination and care especially for the poor came to power as the President of Venezuela. Under Hugo Chavez, Venezuela went through drastic changes both in its economic as well as constitutional system. But now, once the richest oil refinery, the state is battered in economic as well as socio-political crisis. After the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, the country has faced its worst crisis ever after the Great Depression of 1930 that affected the United States. This is under the Nicolas Maduro government.

The country’s socialist policies, on one hand, have helped the poor in many ways. Under the Chavez government, the country managed to reduce its poverty rate from 23.4% in 1999 to 8.5% in 2011 as well as the GDP hiked from $4,105 to $10,810 in 12 years. But what lead the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to reach utter economic crisis despite having good oil resource?

In the year 2014, the global price for oil plummeted and it directly affected Venezuela where 95% of revenue depends on oil. It was the Chavez government that concentrated the country’s oil export revenue as central to its economy. The shortage of foreign currency made it difficult for Venezuela to import basic goods and necessities. The major crisis confronted by the country now is hyperinflation. There are more hands for limited products in the country.

Protesters in front of the police line at a protest in Caracas, Venezuela in February 2015. (Photo: AndresAzp/Flickr)

The situation has become uncanny for citizens as well as daily wage workers. As of now, the country’s minimum wage is equivalent to $6.70 a month, making basic necessities unaffordable for many. As the BBC reports, prices are doubling in every 26 days and most of them have started using electronic transfer for even small transactions. The rapid depreciation of local currency in black market has also made way to inflation. A study conducted shows that 90% of Venezuelans live in poverty and 60% do not have enough money to buy food.

The economic crisis has also hit the public health system making medicines inaccessible for people. The opposition-controlled National Assembly claims the country faced an annual inflation rate of 83,000% in July while the International Monetary Fund has calculated an inflation rate of 80,000% at the end of 2018. In order to cope up with the rise for the basic necessities, the government introduced ‘sovereign bolivar’ – a new currency which is worth Bs.S 100,000 and also began circulating new banknotes and two new coins. The new currency is launched with the state-backed crypto-currency called the ‘petro.’

According to the United Nations, 2.3 million people have left the country since 2015 when the economy started to decline. Majority crossed the borders to neighbouring Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. But these neighbouring countries are also witnessing a crisis in accommodating the migrants. Venezuelans with passports were prevented from entering Ecuador made them to move to Peru which has already sheltered 400,000 Venezuelans.

Apart from all these, crime rates, murders and kidnappings are flourishing due to the distress. Venezuelan Violence Observatory, an independent group has recorded a death rate of 81.4 per 100,000 citizens in 2018  and observed that Venezuela ranks second in highest murder rate in the world after El Salvador. Homicides in Venezuela are thriving as a large number accounts from the hands of the security forces amid the widespread accusation of the extrajudicial killings.

Over the years, Colombia has exported criminality and conflict over trade of cocaine and even organised crimes. Venezuelan women had been found engaged in sex work across Colombia in an investigative field study did by InSight, an organisation that study the threats to national and citizen security in Latin America and Caribbean. They observed that the immigrant Venezuelans who are penniless and little of education and marketing skills are an easy prey for organised crimes.

Venezuela and United States had a strong bilateral relationship over trade and investments and even in combating the transit and production of illegal drugs between the countries. Tensions between the two nations started from the presidential period of Hugo Chavez and more apparently due to his socialist policies and friendly diplomatic relations with Cuba, Bolivia and Iran. Chavez accused the then US President George Bush for supporting the failed coup attempt during April 2002.

Despite the vociferous relationship between the two countries, US remained the major oil importer of Venezuela with an import rate of more than $40 billion in oil from the country. Venezuela’s alliance with Iran and Cuba in nuclear and trade deals triggered US many times and that often ended up in debates between the former US President Obama and Chavez. After Nicolas Maduro took over, he expelled two US officials out of the country following which the US to threw three Venezuelan diplomats from their country.

Iran’s President Rouhani concludes a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Saadabad Palace, November 2015. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In May 2014, Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act, a bill that would impose economic sanctions to Venezuelan officials who were involved in the mistreatment of the protestors in the 2014 Venezuelan protests was passed by the United States House of Representatives. Many Latin American countries denounced the sanctions put forth by US on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela which was suffering from internal conflicts and economic conditions that it cannot single-handedly deal. An uncanny incident that happened was a gift worth $500,000 was presented by a US based oil company owned by Venezuela for the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of United States, amidst the rising crisis of poverty within the former country.

An attempt for a coup on January 23 by the US when it decided to recognise a member of the Opposition, Juan Guaido as the President of Venezuela has created a serious backlash from the other Latin American countries as well as Nicolas Maduro. The newer diplomatic talk with China throws a light a hope for the country to emancipate from the current crisis.

Venezuela is considered as one of the biggest voices from Latin America that stands against US intervention. The future of the country depends more on how it tackles its hyperinflation and crime rates. Otherwise, like any other country, Venezuela might also face a civil war at any moment and a replacement of the government with a people’s republic.

Note: This article was first published on the author’s blog. To read, click here.

Featured image source: Wikipedia.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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