What’s happening?

Venezuela is one step away from a full-on humanitarian crisis. The Central Bank of Venezuela has admitted that shortages of food, medicines and other products reach 87%. That means that Venezuelans can only find 1 out of 10 products they need. This is already causing the death of hundreds of the most vulnerable: newborn babies, children, the elderly and people with diseases like cancer, AIDS, diabetes and heart conditions.

The few products that are available are unaffordable. Venezuela has the highest inflation in the world. In 2016 it will close at more than 700%, according to the IMF. A steep devaluation of the Venezuelan currency and rising unemployment make the situation worse.

Life in Venezuela is worsened by intolerable crime. Venezuela has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. According to Venezuelan NGO’s (because the government does not provide stats on crime), during 2015 there were 27,875 in Venezuela. That is an average of 70 murders per day. Human rights organisations report that less than 10% of these crimes led to convictions.

The government headed by Nicolás Maduro is not respecting the will of the people. It is acting against democracy, human rights, the constitution and international law. In December 2015 the opposition gained a 2/3 control of the National Assembly. Yet, the President and his allies in the Supreme Court have disregarded most laws approved by the Assembly and Maduro has actually said that the legislative body will eventually disappear. Peaceful protest is met with violent repression, there are dozens of political prisoners behind bars and the media is pressured.

Will the situation get better?

Probably not. The government of Maduro has shown that it is determined to stay in power, continue its policies, ignore the crisis and prevent anyone from helping. Early in 2016, when the National Assembly declared a humanitarian health crisis that would allow the country to request assistance from the World Health Organisation, Maduro’s government refused to make an official request to the WHO and accused the opposition legislators of treason.

The opposition has backed the idea of a presidential recall referendum, which is allowed in the Constitution. In March 2016 legislators requested that the National Electoral Commission activate the procedure for a referendum. For this the opposition needed to collect a bit under 200,000 signatures. They collected 2.5 million and presented 1.8 million to the commission. Since then, the commission has dragged its feet and the Venezuelan Vice President, Aristobulo Isturiz, said there would be no referendum.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) has an opportunity to put pressure on Venezuela by invoking the Democratic Charter and requesting that the Maduro government allow the referendum. However, the OAS Council could not reach consensus about this and simply issued a resolution asking for dialogue between the government and the opposition.

Meanwhile, the situation of Venezuelans will continue to worsen. The Chavez and Maduro governments have almost wiped out Venezuela’s capabilities to produce food, medicines and almost everything else. Until now, the government was able to import food and medicines. But with the fall of oil prices and the decrease of crude production, the government can’t afford this anymore.

What can you do?

The international community must keep pressure on the government of Venezuela to exhort it to respect democracy and human rights. If you are an UK resident please write to your MP to encourage him or her to address the Venezuelan situation in Parliament and to ask the British government to engage with the Venezuelan situation.

Contact the BP oil company and ask it to stop doing business with PDVSA and CITGO, the government-controlled oil companies of Venezuela.

Contact the leadership of the Labour Party and ask it to engage with its allies in the Venezuelan government and demand that human rights and democracy are respected in Venezuela.