Located in the continent of South America, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is home to approximately 31.9 million people. Blessed with the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela was once the region’s highest in terms of per capita income and a major oil supplier to the United States. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/in-socialist-venezuela-a-crisis-of-faith-not-in-just-their-leader-but-their-economic-model/2019/02/11/ea67849e-2b33-11e9906e-) (https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R45120.pdf)
The country’s elections held in May 20, 2018 had Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) declared winner and to be inaugurated as president on January 10, 2019. Main opposition leader Juan Guaidó challenged Maduro’s presidency and declared himself interim president of Venezuela. Since then, the political crisis in the country has escalated to economic and humanitarian crises.
According to UNHCR Report , between January and December, 2018, at least 1.5 million people were displaced in Venezuela (http://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/unhcr%20venezuela%20situation%202018%20supplementary%20appeal.pdf).
At least 146,600 applied for asylum and formal recognition and protection as refugees while an estimated 444,000 accessed other forms of protection or alternative legal stay. Neighboring countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil and beyond have been receiving migrants from Venezuela (https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/66645). As is always the case in most displacement situations, the most affected are women, children, pregnant mothers, the elderly and the sick such as people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
In 2016, Venezuela had approximately 120, 000 people living with HIV among whom 61 % were accessing antiretroviral therapy (http://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/venezuela). New HIV infections are estimated to have increased by 24% from 2010 to 2016 (https://reliefweb.int/report/venezuela-bolivarian-republic/venezuela-numbers-highlight-health-crisis). Since the crisis, access to food and essential medicine became very challenging. The Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela estimated that the country suffered from an 85 per cent shortage of medicine (https://www.hudson.org/research/14817-venezuela-s-healthcare-crisis-needs-emergency-attention). Even worse, people living with HIV/AIDS cannot access proper nutrition as they take ARVs.
As the Venezuela crisis deepens, the Catholic Church has expressed solidarity with the people of Venezuela. On Monday 11 February, 2019, Holy Father Pope Francis received a Venezuelan delegation in Vatican to discuss the ongoing crisis in the country. Colombian diocese bordering Venezuela is offering humanitarian assistance to migrants from Venezuela (https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2019/02/12/colombian-cardinal-encourages-humanitarian-aid-for-venezuelan-people/).
We are all invited to pray for Venezuelan people and for a lasting political solution in the country.