Update Venezuela by Fra Hughes

There is a radical quarantine in place in Venezuela at the present time as the COVID 19 Coronavirus appears to gain a foothold in the country.

The fear at this time is for the Barios, in the capital Caracas, which may be susceptible to the virus, as they are among the most densely populated and poorest parts of Venezuelan society. The people who live there might pay a heavy price in sickness and death.

As if the country was not going through enough at the moment, as the continued economic political and financial sanctions placed on the democratically elected government of Nicholas Maduro, by the European Union and the North American administration continue to take a toll, now the extra burden of fighting the virus is being placed on the state’s finances and health service.

In the early days of the pandemic, the Venezuelan government sent planes to neighbouring countries to allow Venezuelans to return home.

Countries like Columbia at first refused to facilitate this passage of people, this repatriation. They soon changed their mind and were then actively encouraging Venezuelans to return home, many of whom were sick. Buses transporting the people home from Columbia were tested and found to be contaminated by the virus leading to many more infections and concern from the Venezuelan government and the people that their citizen’s, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, may have been deliberately infected in order to further burden the Venezuelan state.

A pass is now required, for essential travel only, for anyone moving between cities in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.

The health service is free in Venezuela and the government on behalf of the people is working very hard to contain and control the virus to protect the population.

The economy is under huge pressure as many things are now bought and sold in American Dollars.

Inflation due to sanctions and black marketeering caused by those profiteering from the political turmoil in order to put pressure on the government has caused the national currency the Bolivar to devalue substantially.

The guaranteed monthly minimum wage in Venezuela is approximately  800,000 Bolivars; that equates at the present time to about 4 Dollars.

A bottle of wine, Gato Negra, costs 17 Dollars. This is indicative of how precarious the economy has become.

Many people have to find a second job or perhaps create their own employment, making bread to sell, or cheese or some other home-based work.

Thankfully the government is continuing with the CLAP food distribution programme, with Local Committees for the Supply and Production of food.

An elderly person, for example, paying 50 cents, one Dollar being equivalent to approximately 2240.000 Bolivar, to the CLAP food aid programme, was able to receive  5 packets of cornflower, 3 kilos of rice, 4 kilos of beans, a box of 30 eggs, 5 kilos of sardines and a kilo of milk.

There are also subsidised farmers markets run by the state,

In order to survive, for many, it is essential to use the government subsidised food market. This is a crucial lifeline for the most vulnerable.

In the regular supermarkets, 30 eggs cost 600,000 bolivars approximately 2.5 Dollars

Food inflation in Venezuela is dramatic. Huge efforts are being made to develop food sovereignty, whereby Venezuela becomes self-reliant on food production and require no food imports. Farmers are now growing indigenous foods that have for many years been replaced by foreign imports.

Petroleum is now free for trucks delivering food and ambulances. It is possible, one day per week to fill your car, with gasoline for less than 1 dollar for 45 litres of fuel.

Water electricity and telephone payments are not being sought from those who cannot afford to pay them.

Unlike western capitalist economies where if you fail to pay, the service is withdrawn, the services in Venezuela are being kept in place as the people support the government, the government supports the people.

The recent shipments of gas petroleum from Iran along with fuel supplements will enable the petrochemical industry in Venezuela to regain its impetus and stimulate the economy.

Alongside the oil, Iran and China are sending technical experts to repair and renew the oil infrastructure and an Iranian supermarket with food sent from Iran will soon open for the first time.

It is hoped that the current relationships that are strengthening and deepening between Iran, China, Russia and Venezuela will continue.

A new Petrochemical company similar to Venezuela’s CITGO may operate between Venezuela and China, thus replacing the oil export contracts, which previously went to North American companies to China.

China requires a huge amount of oil and gas to complete its economic infrastructure programme and the completion of the One Belt One Road economic transport route through Eurasia and Africa.

An economic boom could be on the horizon if Venezuela and its government can withstand the sanctions, gaining enough time to see this process through.

At this time there is a land dispute between Venezuela and neighbouring Guyana.

Guyanas indigenous population was first occupied by the Dutch and then by the British.

Guyana gained freedom from the United Kingdom in 1966. It is the only country in South America to have English as its official language. Guyana has a diverse population. In order to populate and exploit the land, Britain brought several different nationalities to colonise the region.

With a population of less than  800.000 but with huge mineral gas and oil reserves within the boundaries of the Amazon, America and Britain are supporting Guayana in the claim for land that Venezuela has since its Independence in 1824 has claimed belong to them.

With elections on December 6, this year to the National Assembly it is hoped the extreme right will lose some of its seats and more moderate opposition to the government may be elected. The continuing efforts by  North America to facilitate a coup against the democratically elected government of Maduro means there is still much concern for the future in Venezuela.

It can only be hoped that the goodwill of the people and the governmental programme for progressive growth in the economy will prevail.

That the security situation will improve and Venezuela can withstand the onslaught of European and American sanctions.

Having recently completed over 3 million social housing units, with increased literacy rates, decreased child mortality rates, improved health, education and welfare for millions of Venezuelans, there are many reasons to be hopeful that democratic socialism will triumph over undemocratic illegal sanctions.

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