Falling oil prices have hit the nation of Venezuela hard. Earlier this month, Columbia opened its border with Venezuela for 12 hours. An estimated 35,000 Venezuelans swarmed over the border, desperate for food and medical supplies, and thousands more have crossed the border illegally. What's going on? How bad are things in Venezuela?
Really bad, as Jules Suzdaltsev explains in today's Seeker Daily report.
By all indications, Venezuela's economy is collapsing. Basic goods like food, water and medicine are increasingly hard to find. Inflation is estimated at 400 to 800 percent, which has put Venezuela's currency, the Bolivar, into a death spiral. As of June, international agencies were reporting that 90 percent of the nation's population can no longer afford to buy enough food.
Making things even worse for those on the ground in Venezuela, the government's strict rationing system means government owned stores are only open two days a week. Energy is being rationed, as well. For more than 40 days already this year, the government has cut electricity to much of the country. The workweek has been shortened to just two days.
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The conditions have naturally led to looting and riots, and Venezuela's law enforcement apparatus is ill-equipped to deal with the crisis. The country already has high rates of violent crime, drug trafficking and corruption. Its capital city, Caracas, has been called the most dangerous in the world, with nearly 120 murders for every 100,000 people annually. Corruption is rampant. According to Human Rights Watch, one in every five crimes is committed by the police, The health care system is on verge of collapse, too. According to multiple reports, even the major urban hospitals lack basic supplies like beds, needles, soap and even paper. Medicine is scarce and thousands have died from infections and treatable ailments.
With thousands fleeing every day to the U.S. and elsewhere, it's clear that Venezuela in the midst of a historical, existential crisis.
-- Glenn McDonald
New York Times: Venezuelans Ransack Stores as Hunger Grips the Nation
Economist: Empty shelves and rhetoric
CNN: Venezuela: the land of 500% inflation
BBC: Venezuelans cross into Colombia to buy food