Venezuela's hunger for change

Each time you look, the situation in Venezuela has become more dire. The Miami Herald reports children are now showing up at hospitals with signs of severe malnutrition:

Malnourished children who faint in class. Children who, in the worst cases, die from hunger, their bodies nothing but skin and bones, the outlines of their ribs visible…

“We are seeing cases not seen for 40 years,” said William Barrientos, a physician and part of the opposition bloc in the legislative National Assembly who produced and posted a video on YouTube to highlight the issue of malnutrition among Venezuelan children.

“We are seeing cases of marasmus, an extremely grave type of malnutrition. Hospitals are seeing children who seek help, with swollen heads, their skin stuck to their bones and their bellies swollen,” he told el Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview…

“Venezuela is starting to show signs of the kind of poverty we see in other continents,” said Antonio de la Cruz, executive director of Inter American Trends, a Washington, D.C., firm.

The cause of this suffering is not a mystery. Today CNN published a piece by a spokesman for Human Rights Watch. Jose Miguel Vivanco, the group’s director for the Americas, writes that the economy in Venezuela has collapsed:

Our researchers have been back and forth to Venezuela over the past few months, and the situation only gets worse. The economy has collapsed. There are long lines outside food markets selling subsidized goods. The majority of medications considered “essential” by the World Health Organization have vanished from many hospitals and pharmacies.

In hospitals we visited, doctors said they lacked medicines and basic medical supplies and send patients’ relatives out to try to find them. They often come back empty-handed. Patients with various illnesses struggle to get medical treatment. Outside the capital area — particularly among the poor, who can’t afford black-market prices — the situation is even worse.

Last month I highlighted a video report by CNN which discussed the lack of medicine at a children’s hospital in Caracas. But the ruling socialist government is blaming all of its problems on the opposition. More from Human Rights Watch:

The government of President Nicolas Maduro has refused to acknowledge that there is a health and food crisis in Venezuela. Indeed, instead of recognizing its responsibility and looking for solutions, it accuses the political “right” of carrying out an “economic war” to undermine the government. Venezuelan authorities have also been preventing any significant humanitarian assistance from entering the country, which could help alleviate the crisis.

There is a potential political solution to this misery. The opposition party won the elections last December and has since been trying to push for a referendum which would remove President Maduro from power. However the socialists have been stalling the referendum and recently accused the opposition party of fraud. When the socialists tried to have the party banned there was a showdown in the National Assembly. Until the socialist government is gone, there is little hope for improvement in Venezuela.

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