An Associated Press reporter watched recently as three elderly women stood in front of a market stall in Caracas, Venezuela and shared a bowl of beef soup. This wasn’t just a friendly gesture. The women said they could afford no more. The dollar and half cost of the soup amounted to a quarter of one of the women’s monthly pension.
This is what happens when the annual inflation rate has surged past one million percent, and by one respected economist’s estimation, inflation over the next year could climb 15 times higher than that. Inconceivable.
Finding food and paying for it are easy compared to the hunt for medicines and medical care in today’s Venezuela. How hard it is to satisfy these basic needs has helped push an estimated three million people out of the country over the past several years. If nothing changes, most analysts say, the exodus from Venezuela will only grow.
It is the policy of the government of the United States, Donald J. Trump, President to promote change in Venezuela – regime change. President Trump wants the crookedly-elected President Nicolas Maduro to leave and be replaced by the self-proclaimed interim president, Juan Guaido’. Maduro has refused.
So, the U.S. is applying both carrots and sticks to change his mind.
The sticks include a lengthening list of regime-friends being hit with sanctions, but on a much higher economic level, the U.S. says it will stop the flow of revenues from Venezuela’s American oil business from reaching Maduro’s government, and, according to some members of the Venezuelan political opposition, divert a lot of it to them and to the Guaido’ campaign to replace Maduro.
The carrots include a promise of some kind of amnesty for soldiers, officers and presumably others from the political world, who change sides from Maduro to Guaido’.
But, most pointedly right now, the carrots include rice and beans, infant formula, baby food, high-protein biscuits, basic medicines and medical supplies, which Venezuela conspicuously lacks.
Truckloads of food and medical supplies from the U.S. and roughly 20 other allies from Canada, Latin America and Western Europe are starting to accumulate at two border crossings into Venezuela from Colombia and Brazil.
Right now, they are stopped outside the Venezuelan frontier. “We are not beggars,” says Maduro, justifying his rejection of the offered humanitarian aid. This is, he says again and again, just a build-up to a coup; an American-led military move against him.
Actually, it’s conceived as a non-violent alternative to a military coup, but with the same effect – the removal of President Maduro.
Polls suggest a majority of Venezuelans would be happy to see Maduro go, and almost certainly, to see foreign aid – food, medicine and such distributed widely around the country. But what then?
Joshua Goodman, a cross-format journalist and news manager who has reported from more than a dozen countries for The Associated Press, has been named news director for the Andes.
Based in Bogota, Goodman will lead video, text and photo operations for the AP in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador.