Although it has only recently received extensive coverage in western media, the economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is not new. AP reports that according to the UN, there were over 3 million Venezuelan refugees around the world as of November 2018. That number is expected to reach 5.3 million by the end of 2019.
Where did this crisis come from? Why has the media only recently begun to take notice? And how can we, as Christians, think and pray about it?
Nicolas Maduro became president of Venezuela in 2013 when Hugo Chavez died. Maduro very narrowly won the national election by less than 2 percentage points. The economy was already declining under Chavez, but under Maduro it took a dramatic turn for the worse. Maduro’s first years in office saw mass exodus from the country as inflation skyrocketed. The BBC reports that inflation reached 1,300,000% last year. The currency exchange rate has reached record lows and basic human necessities like food and water have become scarce. Even where they can be found, over ninety percent of Venezuelans cannot afford to purchase simple food items.
The world is taking notice of this crisis now because of opposition leader Juan Guaido. From the position of leader of the national assembly, Guaido was declared interim president of Venezuela in January 2019 following the swearing in of Maduro to a second term in office. The election that preceded Maduro’s second term was widely boycotted and declared illegitimate by many countries. According to the BBC, “The National Assembly argues that because the election was not fair, Mr Maduro is a ‘usurper’ and the presidency is vacant.” Venezuela’s constitution provides for the leader of the national assembly to assume the presidency in the case that there is a vacancy in that position. Because of this, Juan Guaido has taken up that mantle.
There have been mass protests and demonstrations in support of Guaido including statements of supports by the U.S. and E.U. This opposition leader is rallying widespread support among the working class citizens of Venezuela largely due to the fact that they are directly affected by the rapidly declining economy. The issues they are protesting include national debt, corruption, and mismanagement by the Maduro government since his initial election in 2013.
The people of Venezuela are becoming increasingly desperate. Based on the information provided above, here is a prayer list that can be used to guide you through interceding on behalf of our Venezuelan brothers and sisters.
Working people have quickly been sucked into poverty because their dollars are no longer strong enough to support their families. Stabilization of the government is important not just for political reasons, but for the sake of survival for ordinary citizens.
Nearly 300,000 Venezuelans have sought refuge from this disaster in the United States.
The position of our government and the attitude of each citizen, including you and me, towards them is crucial to their survival.
Mercy Corps says that “Many Venezuelans arriving (in Colombia) are young women at high risk of exploitation, harassment and sexual violence… Often they are traveling alone with small children, and some women have resorted to sex work for survival and to feed their children.”
While countries around the world have used the threat of military action in a game of political posturing, the people of Venezuela have continued to take to the streets and are the ones who would most directly be affected by military action of any kind. Pray for their safety and for level-headed decision making that takes human life into account by leaders around the world.