Venezuela crisis
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VENEZUELA is a rich country in natural resources, yet today its people are on the streets protesting as a result of the poor performance of its economy. Fortunate to be ranked as having the world’s largest petroleum reserves and the fifth producer of oil, there is going to be intensification of the protests against President Nicolás Maduro’s government by the political opposition, business sector, and others.
On Tuesday, this three-year protest reached another level when three persons died, and which saw the trading of blame by the opposition and government as to who is responsible. This has since erupted into what the opposition has called “the mother of all protests,” where both sides have resorted to the use of force and violence to repel the other. The escalating or tempering down of this latest salvo will depend on the level of involvement, be it local and/or international that would aid an amicable process of restoring stability. Calls by the international community to allow Venezuelans the right to peaceful protest has not borne fruit.
Civilians are lighting firebombs and shielding themselves from tear gas as they continue to advance the protests and call for action such as early elections and the re-opening of Parliament. The political opposition has vowed that it will not cede its resistance until their demands are met. The government is using tear gas, hoses and water cannons, which evidently have not succeeded in quelling the resistance but intensifying the determination.
Guyanese resident in Venezuela are fleeing the instability and returning home. This must not be seen as a problem, given our stability and after all Guyana is the only place Guyanese can truly call home. Venezuela is an important country in the international community. As a founder-member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), its importance is not only felt in the extractive sector and influencing of supply and prices, but also as a strategic force in the Latin American bloc.
For Guyana, Venezuela’s internal stability is not only important for peaceful resolution of the border controversy, but as a neighbour where there exists chaos within, it could lead to unplanned migration across a porous border. Such influx also creates potential for those with unsavoury intent to enter under cover of fleeing instability to carry nefarious acts. People move to countries that are considered more stable than theirs; particularly when there exists instability such as political and economic upheavals and natural disasters, people move to the nearest place they consider to be a safe haven. Unplanned immigration brings with it adverse impact on social services such as education, health, and water consumption. This could lead to slum areas being thrown up and threats to public health by over-burdening the system, and creating challenges in controlling communicable diseases.
Whereas on Thursday the United States (U.S.) General Motor Company reported the Venezuela authorities engaged in the “illegal judicial seizure of its assets,” this latest development is likely to attract political and economic responses from the U.S. and its allies. Within the past two weeks the world has already seen what war and the threats of war could look like. The sabre-rattling within recent days even call to mind the need for clear-headedness in handling the situation in Venezuela, which has a powerful military.
The instability and turmoil are happening alongside Guyana. Brazil continues to have an unstable political climate. Venezuela is subjected to continuous political turmoil. Suriname is threatened by the people’s resistance to the government’s economic austerity measures. The pictures, messages, and footage seen from these countries are those of people showing unwillingness to cede ground or listen to the views of the other. Where these protests suggest the existence of steeled determination on both sides, accompanied by violence, their impact is bound to ricochet all around, adversely affecting the economies and by extension the citizens’ quality of life. These realities suggest that Guyana’s continued stability requires of its leadership and citizenry constructively engaging each other on matters of concern to either or both. This way, Guyana would not only pass through this period of upheaval intact, but also be a beacon of inspiration for others.

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