By VINCENT GALVAN
Venezuela is home to the largest oil reserve in the world and was the biggest oil exporter in 1928. Since then, what has happened to the country with the richest economy in South America?
During Hugo Chavez’ presidency from 1999 to 2013, a system of social and economic policies was created to aid the people. For a while, these policies were stable, though at the cost of a major portion of Venezuelan petroleum income. Venezuela’s gross domestic product depends heavily on its oil exports which make up 95 percent of the country’s income. Chavez overspent Venezuela’s money and oil prices started to fall, which caused companies to produce less oil. This put Venezuela in debt and the bolivar value started to decrease.
The next and current president, Nicolas Maduro, followed Chavez’ policies, something that did not help the economy. Maduro nationalized oil, financial, agricultural, and industrial companies which helped stabilize the economy, but the country received little money. Now, Venezuela has a debt of over $720 million and the country only has around $11 billion left to spend. To continue, the bolivar has lost 99.8 percent of its value in the past 5 years and inflation remains constant in the country.
Venezuela has a shortage of food and 80 percent of people lack access to basic medical supplies and treatment. About three quarters of the adult population has lost an average of 17.2 pounds, infant mortality rate has risen to 30 percent, and the maternal mortality rate has ballooned to 65 percent.
To continue, stores face food shortages, resulting in an increase in food trafficking. Evidence from the New York Times points to the military contributing to food trafficking in the black market. Crime rates have also increased in Venezuela.
Homicides and theft have become common due to a lack of physiological need fulfillment and violent protests against President Maduro have been continuous in the streets. Many citizens have demanded a new election and for Maduro’s resignation. However, Maduro has been able to counter the opposition with the Venezuelan military. The military have many advantages over the guerrilla opposition. Most notably, they possess a steady supply of food and income.
The citizens’ protests have frequently become violent with hundreds injured and 67 deaths in the beginning of April 2017. In May 2016, President Maduro called for a state of emergency. With all of the chaos in Venezuela, the future of this once prosperous South American country does not appear assured.