Victims of Venezuela crisis despair at prospect of second Maduro term
Maduro was sworn in for a second six-year term on Thursday, after winning a presidential election in May dismissed as illegitimate by much of the international community on grounds that it was not free, fair or transparent.
A public transport employee who doesn’t earn enough to feed himself, a doctor who watches his patients die for lack of medicines, a lawmaker without a legislature, three generations of one family emigrating – the list of victims of Venezuela’s crisis is long.
They come from all walks of life and dread the prospect of another six years under the man who has overseen it, President Nicolás Maduro.
Nevertheless, the 56-year-old leader was sworn in for a second six-year term on Thursday, after winning a presidential election in May dismissed as illegitimate by much of the international community on grounds that it was not free, fair or transparent.
The opposition boycotted the vote, blaming Maduro for the political, economic and humanitarian crisis that has enveloped the oil-rich country.
Jairo Colmenares scrapes by on the equivalent of US$7 a month, which he earns as a Caracas metro worker. At the street market, it’s barely enough to buy a dozen eggs, half a kilo of potatoes and a few pieces of fruit.
On his days off, he says he gets up late to save himself a meal.
“One or two patients die every day due to lack of supplies or while waiting for a surgical shift to come on,” José, a 27-year-old neurosurgery resident, told AFP.
Empty storeroom shelves are evidence of the scarcity of medicines and basic hospital supplies, which trade unions estimate at 84 percent.
Shortages of medicine and basic foods became the norm in Venezuela when oil prices collapsed, and Venezuela’s crude production declined from 3.2 million barrels a day to 1.13 million bpd, crippling its ability to import necessary supplies.
“I have not seen a single cent of salary,” said Bolivar, 35, who added that Maduro’s ruling socialists “are seeking to break us.”
Provincial deputies tell of 14-hour bus journeys to be present at debates, because they can’t afford the cost of flying, and eating just one meal a day.
‘OVER THE WORST’
Henry Peña’s elderly parents wept as they saw him off at a Caracas bus terminal. It’s a common enough sight in Venezuela – 2.3 million people have fled the country since 2015. The UN expects the figure to surpass 5.3 million this year.
The 45-year-old mechanic had returned from Peru, but only to collect his adult twin daughters and two grandchildren aged two and four.
Three generations of one family were leaving – only the elderly greatgrandparents stayed behind.
Peña sold his van, his motorbike and his television to pay for the tickets. The family took bread and juices for the long journey.
“We made the decision to leave before Maduro closes the border or countries break off relations,” said Peña.
Fourteen hours later, they were through the border.
“We’re over the worst,” said one of his daughters in a video message on her mobile phone, which showed a sign: “Welcome to Colombia.”