One month since interim President Juan Guaido’s declaration of Maduro’s illegitimacy sent Venezuela into chaos, the country remains in turmoil and continues to face shortages of essential items, including clean water, toilet paper, and, until recently, power. Prices within the country have suffered from extreme inflation beginning toward the end of Hugo Chavez’ reign and continuing into President Maduro’s first election in 2013.
Within the last twenty years, Venezuela’s inflation rate risen 30.9% to over 1,300,000% in 2018. As Sergi Lanau, deputy director of the International Institute of Finance, told Newsweek “Increasing public spending initially supported the economy but became an issue when the government resorted to printing money to finance ever-growing fiscal deficits.”
The already strained economic situation and corresponding living conditions have worsened in the country due to the civil strife accompanying the struggle of legitimacy between Maduro and Guaido. It deteriorated further on March 7 when a massive power outage struck Caracas and much of the nation, leading to widespread looting and a disruption of the water sanitation systems. The blackout, which occurred after chief Venezuelan electricity supplier San Geronimo B substation went down, has been blamed by different parties on a variety of sources, among them an unspecified accident, a cyber attack by the US, and an attack by Guaido and his supporters. The power system went back up on March 14, after seven days of darkness. However, rolling blackouts continue across the nation and access to clean water remains scarce.
Underlying the economic and personal conditions is the struggle of power between sitting President Maduro and interim President Guaido. Maduro, who lost the support of the majority of Venezuelans amidst worsening economic conditions and after allegedly rigging his return election, retains the support of the military and several powerful nations, including China and Russia. Meanwhile, Guaido, previously the three-week head of the opposition-led National Assembly who declared himself President on Jan. 23 through the authority of a 1999 section of the constitution, retains the support of citizens and the majority of American nations, including the United States.
As Maduro clings to power as president, US relations within the country have slowly deteriorated. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a withdrawal of US diplomats from the embassy this week, which was completed on Mar. 14.
Much of the struggle between the nations have been rooted in economic, with the United States placing major sanctions on PDSVA, a state-run oil company, and considering a prohibition of major financial institutions within the country, including Visa and Mastercard. Other struggles between the countries have been evident, such as the US’ imposing of Russian-based bank Evrofinance Mosnarbank after they attempted to help PDSVA bypass sanctions or Maduro’s accusations of US involvement in alleged terrorist attacks within the country.
Meanwhile, the people of Venezuela continue in struggle behind the political tensions. While there have been no death counts from civil unrest, estimates remain in the hundreds, while thousands of citizens continue to suffer from shortages of food, water and antibiotics. A local speaking of the conditions, local Venezuelan Jose Perez told reporters that, “The sad thing about everything we are living through in Venezuela is the sadness of everything happening in our nation, the sadness of what is happening with all of the youth at this time–it’s not a life.”