Venezuela Facing Severe Food Crisis as the US Steps Up Embargo

The World Food Program (WFP) report released on Sunday, February 23, stated that one in three Venezuelans is struggling to provide nutritious food that meets the minimum standard amid the ongoing political and economic crisis in the country.

Venezuela’s Massive Food Shortage Problem

As many as 9.3 million-one-third of Venezuela’s population-are categorized as moderately or severely food insecure, as the WFP study reported. The study was conducted at the invitation from the Venezuelan government and defines food insecurity as an individual who is unable to meet his or her basic nutrition needs.

Sixty percent of households reported the cut in their food portion, 33 percent admitted receiving food as their works’ payment, and 20 percent reportedly sold their assets to fulfill their basic needs. Meanwhile, U.S President Donald Trump has decided to boost a sanction on Venezuela’s oil sector, targeting companies and people breaking the ban, as U.S envoy to Latin America stated as Reuters reported.

Once an Oil-rich Nation, Venezuela is Now Struggling With a Prolonged Economic and Political Crisis

Venezuela’s economy is mainly dependent on the oil sector. Under the presidency of Hugo Chavez, Venezuelans once enjoyed a wide range of subsidies for education, health, and others. However, the country’s heavy reliance on oil sector costs and the economy’s mismanagement have ruined the country.

Chavez died in 2013 and his close aide, Nicolas Maduro took over. The sharp decline in global oil prices in 2014 devastated Venezuela’s economy, leading to hyperinflation and the cut in subsidies. Global lender the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated the inflation in 2018 would hit 1.37 percent.

The crisis turned global following Maduro’s re-election in 2018, sparking controversies and allegations that the socialist politician had rigged the vote. The U.S and its allies did not recognize Maduro, while Russia, China, and Cuba supported the former bus driver.

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself as an interim president. The U.S and several European countries backed the young leader, who launched a coup in April last year to topple the incumbent but failed to succeed in his ambition.

In early 2019, U.S envoy to Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, secretly met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza in New York, as Maduro confirmed. Abrams admitted that dialogue with Maduro had been carried out, adding that the urgent matter they discussed was Maduro’s possible resignation.

Sanctions Hurt Ordinary Venezuelans

In May 2019, Venezuelan Oil Minister, Manuel Quevedo, said that the U.S sanction has disrupted oil distribution to the world market and caused severe economic damage and added suffering to Venezuelans.

His statement came following the sanctions Washington imposed on Venezuela’s state oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela S.A (PDVSA) as an effort to put more pressure on Maduro. A U.N rights expert Idriss Jazairy raised concern over the embargo aimed at replacing Venezuela’s legitimate government, adding that sanctions could solve the problems.

“I am especially concerned to hear reports that these sanctions are aimed at changing the government of Venezuela,” the Algerian diplomat said.

Alfred de Zayas, former U.N special rapporteur who visited Venezuela in 2017, stated that the U.S-backed sanctions had worsened the economic crisis. During his mission in Venezuela in late 2017, the Latin American nation’s overdependence on oil and rampant corruption have caused the crisis. Still, the sanctions had been the main factor behind the hardship.

“Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns.

“Twenty-first-century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees,” de Zayas said in his report as The Independent wrote, arguing that the sanctions themselves are illegal as the U.N Security Council does not endorse it.

Venezuela’s situation has split Latin America and the world. As long as the peace talks only focus on a regime-change, innocent Venezuelans will likely continue to suffer from the ongoing and unnecessary embargo.