October 27, 2020

Three postcards of the crisis that plagues Venezuela



The severe crisis that Venezuela is going through more than five years ago finds its daily expression in the collapse of public services, a massive emigration that has broken families and the implosion of the economy, which until just a few decades ago was an example for the region.

Every day, millions of Venezuelans suffer at least one of these three ills, all related to the country’s economic decline with the largest proven oil reserves on the planet and a tourism potential that once attracted millions of visitors.

There are just three postcards of a situation that Parliament – which has its own crisis with two directives that are fighting for the control of the body – has pointed out as “complex” and that it has more faces.

Three photographs that offer a global idea of ​​the Venezuelan crisis and how it is affecting citizens.

MIGRATION UNLOCKS THE DRAMA OF SOLITUDE

The pensioner Hilda Márquez remembers each day with nostalgia her son Sergio, who years ago fled the Venezuelan crisis to settle in Chile, as well as about 400,000 of his compatriots, according to official data.

“I need it because you have no imagination, you do not want the children to leave, or for anyone to leave,” the 76-year-old woman told Efe.

But from his humble home in western Caracas, Márquez prefers to miss him rather than see him return to Venezuela, where he will only face “calamities” and hunger.

“He tells me that he is fine, that he is still at work, and now the way things are (because of the pandemic) he tells me that he works from home,” she said, recalling the last conversation she had with her son. “And if it’s okay over there, why are you going to come here to have more calamities, the ones we’re going through?”

Sergio is one of the five million Venezuelans who fled the crisis in recent years, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Venezuelan experts have said that these migrants help improve the economies of their families through remittances – estimated at some 3,000 million dollars in 2019 – shipments of food, clothing, footwear and various products.

Numbers that, however, do not mitigate the pain of the distance felt, especially by pensioners who have children and grandchildren in other countries.

THE DEVASTATED ECONOMY BECOMES A NEED

The Caracas man Nelson Pacheco has a permanent job in a bakery in the Venezuelan capital, where he performs various tasks and earns the minimum wage established in the country: 400,000 bolivars or $ 1.95 at the current exchange rate of the Central Bank.

Pacheco is also employed in the parking lot of a restaurant in the capital, a business less affected by the new coronavirus pandemic, and receives some social aids, better known as missions, granted by the Government of Nicolás Maduro.

But still, her monthly income doesn’t exceed $ 10.

“It is strong,” Pacheco told Efe about living on less than half a dollar a day. “You have to know how to survive, the little you earn to stretch it for half a meal, (because) for nothing else you can get a salary,” he added.

In Venezuela, more than 7 million people, including public employees and pensioners, receive income similar to that of Pacheco: less than $ 10 per month.

The number leaves these Venezuelans, almost 25% of the population, well below the poverty line according to data from the World Bank, which estimates the minimum income to leave this group at $ 2 a day.

“It is strong, for me and for many people, it is not for me alone,” continues Pacheco before pointing to the solution that many find to misery: “Ask, sometimes ask.”

PUBLIC SERVICES, COLLAPSED

María Alvarado keeps in “pimpinas” (jugs) several liters of water to face the service cuts in her native Maracaibo, the capital of the state of Zulia (west), one of the regions hardest hit by the Venezuelan crisis.

“The water arrives, sometimes, every 15 days, sometimes it does not arrive, and when it arrives it is ‘agüita de tamarindo’,” the 33-year-old woman told Efe, making a comparison between the juice of a popular citrus fruit in Venezuela and the color of the water that comes out of the taps. When does it come out. “It is dirty,” insisted the woman, who lives in a house shared by 6 people, three of them her minor children.

Rationing the water, he said, is a challenge. Much of what you can store is provided by a private clinic near your home.

“The Zulia clinic supplies us with water through a well. Three times a week they give the community water,” he explained.

But the biggest challenge for this family is preparing daily food amid the occasional gas shortage that the Zulia region suffers.

Thus, Maria often uses an electric cooker, but power service failures are also frequent in Maracaibo and make work difficult.

“(The light) goes out every day, it is not going away for long, but it is going away,” said the woman.

Problems with electric power are changing the consumption habits of Venezuelans, who increasingly acquire food that does not require cold to preserve themselves and prevent power cuts from ruining their scarce food reserves.

The failures, in addition, have led Alvarado to think that public services in Venezuela should not be paid, something that she has done for a long time.

“They cannot charge for something so inefficient,” he said.

In this country, public services are collapsed, but, although they have no zero cost, they are practically free.

Electric service, for example, is the cheapest in the region and is not suspended if the user does not pay the monthly amount.

“They should be ashamed, we have an inefficient government,” said Alvarado, before offering a solution to the crisis: a regime change, “because, whatever we do, we will never solve if we have an inefficient government,” he said.

Ron González

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