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The Venezuelan Catastrophe

Nineteen European countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Poland and Portugal, recognized this week opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the acting president of Venezuela. In the previous weeks, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile and many other Latin American countries had expressed their support for Guaidó. The short list of countries that still support Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela is a collection of repressive regimes like China, Russia, Iran or Cuba.

The situation in Venezuela – the country with the largest confirmed oil reserves in the world – resembles a Dantesque nightmare. According to International Monetary Fund estimates, Venezuela’s inflation in 2018 reached 1,000,000 percent.

Today, Venezuela is the “Latin American country with the highest homicide rate, at 81.4 homicides per 100,000 people, or 23,047 murders,” according to InSight Crime. Statistically, Caracas today is a more dangerous city than Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

Oil production is approximately one million barrels per day, a steep decline from the three million barrels per day the country produced in 2011. Venezuela is the seventh most corrupt nation among 175 countries classified in the Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International.

The food and medicine shortages, constant blackouts and bloody government repression complete the picture of a collapsed society. Three million people have left the country in recent years.

Last Jan. 23, Juan Guaidó was proclaimed acting president during massive protests against the Maduro government. That day, the government’s repressive apparatus killed 20 protesters.

Following Guaidó’s proclamation as acting president, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged $20 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuela, while Canada promised to send $40 million. But the Maduro government won’t allow the humanitarian aid to reach the Venezuelan people.

The Catholic bishops – for years, the target of governmental harassment – have denounced the pulverization of the Venezuelan economy and society at the hands of one of the most inept and corrupt governments the continent has ever seen. Last Monday, they released a statement asking Maduro and the army to allow humanitarian aid to reach the country and stop the repression.

“We demand that the state security channels stop the repression against their Venezuelan brothers and sisters and fulfill their real responsibility – protecting the people under any circumstances, but especially when they exercise their right to peaceful protest.”

Maduro has now called on the Vatican to facilitate a dialogue with the opposition. It is a recurring tactic of the regime to buy time. After previous dialogues with the opposition, the government has violated the agreements as soon as the social unrest ebbs. This time around, many countries and statesmen that supported previous rounds of dialogue are calling on Maduro to resign. They learned their lesson – Maduro doesn’t have any intention to honor the potential agreements such a dialogue could produce.

The people and the Church in Venezuela need our prayers and support. The country is at the edge of total collapse and Maduro doesn’t seem to have the intention of being part of the solution. He has to go. Now.

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