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The Raging Struggle in Venezuela
[ Issue 128 Page 10 ] Friday, March 28, 2014, 15:34:12 Manisha manisha@kaist.ac.kr

 Imagine yourself standing in the queue for hours together just to get humble toilet paper or everyday food requirements, and even after the long wait you find nothing but vacant shelves. You are walking on the street, but you have no idea what could happen to you the next minute, owing to the bubbling crime rate. You stand protesting, sometimes peacefully, against the government which has failed to respond to the immediate needs of the public, only to be a victim of tear gas and aggression from pro-government forces. This is the present condition in Venezuela, with death toll rising above the bar every single day.

Venezuela is currently facing a deep divide as anti-government protests are sporadically spreading across the nation. Recent have taken lives on both sides of the ensuing debate. The major grievances of the public are the government’s failure to deal with economic problems and the increasing crime rate. Statistics reveal that in Venezuela, a person is murdered every 21 minutes. In 2014, Quartz claimed that the high murder rate is due to the country’s growing poverty rate, rampant corruption, high levels of gun ownership, and failure to punish murderers (91% of the murderers go unpunished, according to the Institute for Research on Coexistence and Citizen Security). The economy of Venezuela has been facing exorbitant inflation rates - the devaluation of Venezuela’s currency has led to ongoing shortages of necessities such as toilet paper, milk, and flour. The current state of Venezuela’s currency implies that it does not have the capability to import paper. The irony is that even after acquiring Manpa, Venezuela’s largest manufacturer of toilet paper with the objective of checking operations for possible diversion of distribution and illegal management, the current president Nicholas Maduro’s government has not been able to meet the demands of the wreathing local public and struggle to meet day-to-day needs.
Venezuela under Hugo Chavez had seen economic progress and increased availability of resources for all citizens; the crime rate was controlled and economy had been on the rise. A sudden wave of change swept after Chavez’s death, leading to Maduro’s victory in the 2013 elections by a very narrow margin. However, Maduro’s policies have attracted a lot of criticism by the younger generation. In 2013, as an attempt to flee the economic war, he ordered the military to take over appliance stores in order to avoid economic cannibalization and to ensure “fair” price for buyers, the idea behind it being, as Maduro states, "this is for the good of the nation, leave nothing on the shelves, nothing in the warehouses.” Contrary to this idea, his attempt to prevent cannibalization has led to huge debts, and many industrial units, which could be a solution for the staggering economy, have ceased production. Not only industrial developments, health care facilities have also faced the wrath of economic struggle. Most hospitals do not have enough finances to procure drugs and treat ailments of the people.
Undergoing all this trauma, the middle class public has risen against the government and has been protesting, led by other opposition party leaders. Leopoldo Lopez, the Popular Will leader, called upon college students to protest peacefully against the scarcity, insecurity, and shortages that have occurred in the country. His appeals are aimed at making Maduro step down, but with peaceful and non-violent means.
However, instead of implementing revival strategies, Maduro’s government has come down heavily on the public. The death toll has reached 25 and is still on the rise. Maduro’s government, in trying to be over-protective of its policies and decisions, is blaming the opposition to have taken sides with the United States government to launch a "soft coup" tactic. President Maduro organized pro-government demonstrations to counter the opposition and announced that violent anti-government protests are prohibited. Censorship on free speech and independent news reporting organizations, along with newspapers, only added to the angst of the public.
Instead of using force and violence, the government should actually work on the current status of the economy and work on strengthening the current dismal state of law and order. Only satisfaction of the public can be the true means of achieving peace and progress in a democratic nation.
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