For the first time ever, Venezuelans are the top asylum seekers in the US – ahead of refugees from China, Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
The news follows years of mismanagement, corruption, toxic socialist policies, and an unhealthy dependence on oil that has led to triple-digit inflation, severe food and medicine shortages, and a dramatic increase in crime.
Food, water, and basic supplies like toilet paper are unaffordable for a large number of Venezuelans. Last year, those living in extreme poverty lost an average of 19 pounds from hunger (they call it the “Maduro diet”). Many Venezuelan families earn just 20,000 bolivars per month (the equivalent of $45), which is about one-third the cost of a bag of groceries.
As I wrote in a previous article, these problems have disproportionately affected children.
Venezuela’s government is suffering just as badly as its poorest families and is now borrowing money at any cost. As reported last week by The Washington Post, Venezuela’s state oil company sold nearly $3 billion in bonds to Goldman Sachs at just 31 cents on the dollar. The banking firm has been criticized for trading in “hunger bonds.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the beleaguered nation is also offering $5 billion in bonds at 20 cents on the dollar through a Chinese brokerage.
Meanwhile, the public is demanding that President Nicolas Maduro step down. Demonstrations and protests have occurred almost every day since April 1st, when Maduro stripped opposition leader Henrique Capriles of his right to run for office.
Those who dare to protest (and there are many) are met with water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and worse. Over the past three months, nearly 70 civilians have been killed during clashes with riot police.
“It’s madness,” says Venezuelan Doctor Henrique Montbrun. “We have gone from an average of 30 wounded people to more than 65 in the last two weeks. We live in a continuous state of emergency.”
He says the doctors can no longer predict the type of injuries to prepare for. “Violence doesn’t surprise me, but the level of hatred security forces are showing towards average citizens and the use of non-conventional weapons like loading tear gas canisters with nails and marbles does take me aback.”
Over 100 journalists have been threatened, detained, or injured since the protests began. Major news stations, including CNN’s Spanish equivalent, have been taken off the air for covering stories unfavorable to the government.
Following video footage supporting protestors’ claims that police were stealing their wallets and phones, General Vladimir Padrino Lopez told his troops to stop mistreating civilians. As far as we know, those orders haven’t been followed.
“When security forces defy their leader it generally means you are one step away from a failed state. Unless they listen, we could soon be on the brink of anarchy,” says Montbrun.
As reported by CNN, opposition forces are gearing up to stage a massive march in Caracas on Wednesday.
Editor’s note: We will continue to report on this. At this point, I’m predicting complete failure of the government, with some kind of coup or collapse, in the September timeframe. Its too late for Venezuela to be fixed democratically.
This is socialism, folks…