Sinking oil prices, produce shortages and harmful hospitals, does their government play a role?
In the early 2000s, Venezuela used to prosper in their economy with their rich oil production, one that boasts for their largest oil reserves in the world. Their former president, Hugo Chávez, who controlled this wealth, was able to use it to pay for social programs and higher education and reduce poverty rates down to half.
However, in 2013, their economy took a turn after years of too much government involvement on expenses in welfare programs and poorly managed facilities. While Chávez controlled the majority of the oil production, the economy busted because oil prices sunk down and could not sell enough for a profit. Since 2014, oil prices are continuing to lose its value as their prices are plummeting down, which leaves the country in shortages of groceries, medicines and chaotic hyperinflation.
Previously, lawmakers in Venezuela’s National Assembly attempted to fight this dropping economy for a recall election. However, this failed when the country’s electoral commission suspended the referendum plan last week after Maduro claimed it as a coup attempt. In return, protesters are calling for Maduro to be placed on trial for manipulating their constitution.
Last Wednesday, Oct. 26, protestors filled the streets of Caracas to stand against their government about a recall vote to remove their current president Nicolás Maduro, who may as well be close to turning their democracy into a definite dictatorship.
Several thousands of protesters blocked the main roads and neighborhoods to take a stand, which lead to schools, shops and highways closing. This anarchist protest ended in chaos as one police officer was reported to have died, 120 people left injured and 147 arrested.
To make matters worse, Venezuela is running out of funds. They owe $15 billion while their central bank only holds $11.8 billion. While Venezuela relied on other countries such as China for loans, China recently stopped contributing payments to Venezuela after $60 billion in loans since 2007. China relied on Venezuela for their secure source of oil, but because of the inflation in that country, China can no longer rely on their troubles.
Since 2013, the government kept enforcing strict and expensive price controls on produce sold in supermarkets. This stopped food shipments from supplying any more produce into their store. Because the produce is so expensive in the stores, several residents cannot afford to buy their necessities, which then lead to a greater loss for the supermarkets.
Some Venezuelans went several weeks, and even months, without basic food, such as milk, eggs and flour, and other supplies such as soap and toilet paper. Many resorted to traveling into different countries just to gain access to toilet paper.
In addition, these expensive grocery prices lead to street gangs, mob thefts and also poor conditions of roads and public buildings. One survivor of this violence in Valencia was Jose Luis Vasquez, who was rushed to the emergency room last week from a gunshot wound while being robbed at his job. He was sent to one of the largest public hospitals in Valencia, about 150 miles from Caracas, but the hospital lacked proper surgical supplies and he had to purchase them from different locations. Another citizen, Luiz Hidalgo, who has been in a wheelchair with a leg injury from a car accident, also had to buy his own medical supplies. Unfortunately, while he was sedated, his medical equipment was stolen.
Major theft was common in hospitals throughout Venezuela since medical supplies can be sold on the black market. Because of the shortages of medicine that make ordinary medicines hard to obtain, people are taking desperate measures to gain access to sparse resources.
Venezuela’s disastrous economy and public health is due to their falling oil prices and decreasing value of their oil, which was controlled by their government. While their economic deficit lead to inflation throughout the whole country, is the government left to blame? Venezuela made such an extreme switch on their government from democracy to socialism that many can argue turned into a dictatorship. Can this commotion predict future outcomes of similar countries gravitating toward socialism? There is still much debate if socialism is the ideal form of government, but hopefully other countries, especially the United States, can see their values of economic freedom.