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March 13, 2019

During assembly on Wednesday, March 13, sophomores Claire Harkins and Tama Kreitman addressed the multiple crises in Venezuela. They did so as part of the Current Events Club which seeks to share objective information about timely issues to the student body. Here are their prepared remarks:

Hey guys, we're here to talk a bit about the crisis in Venezuela.

Current President Nicolás Maduro took power after his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, died in 2013. Coupled with dropping oil prices, Maduro’s overspending policies crippled Venezuela’s economy, forcing the government to cut public spending. This led to massive food shortages and health issues from malnutrition and lack of medication. As a response to his plummeting popularity, Maduro consolidated enough political power so that many consider him a dictator.

The election that took place last May, in which he won a new six-year presidential term, is widely considered to have been corrupt, because opposition parties were not allowed to run, and many people protested the outcome. Juan Guaidó, Venezuela's leader of the elected National Assembly, was then named interim president by the Assembly, citing constitutional emergency powers in the aftermath of counter protests to Maduro's rule. This has divided other countries: whereas some nations such as the U.S., Canada and most other Latin American countries recognize Guaidó as the legitimate president; others such as Russia, China and Iran still back Maduro.

A few weeks ago, Guaidó crossed the border to Colombia, despite having been barred from leaving the country by the Venezuelan Supreme Court, in order to meet with Latin American leaders and U.S. Vice President Pence to discuss receiving aid. He returned safely to the country on March 4 without being detained or arrested. In the meantime, the country has descended into an economic and humanitarian crisis.

Inflation is estimated to be more than 2000 percent annually. Maduro has also closed the country’s borders along Colombia and Brazil, because many Venezuelans were fleeing the country. He has blocked humanitarian aid sent from the U.S., claiming that it is part of a plot to overthrow his government by arming the opposition. This has led to riots along the border, resulting in violence from the military which remains on Maduro’s side.

President Trump has called on the Venezuelan military to switch their support to the opposition, and has not ruled out the possibility of intervention by the U.S. military. Yesterday, the United States removed its diplomats from our embassy in Caracas.

In addition, Venezuela has been in a power outage since Thursday, which has merely escalated the already dire situation. Police brutality is increasing even as crime has decreased. The rich Venezuelans have been living in luxury hotels while the remainder of the nation suffers with no water, cell phone signals or electricity. Hospitals are in desperate situations as they are unable to provide adequate care, and 10,000 patients’ lives are currently at stake. Yesterday, Maduro accused Guaidó of using U.S. technology to sabotage the electrical grid, and the country’s Supreme Court is opening an investigation into the matter.

The crisis in Venezuela is an important current event to be aware of, especially as U.S. involvement is possible.

Thank you.