Life in Venezuela is Terrible Right Now!

Under the leadership of Hugo Chavez, it seems like the citizens of Venezuela were living a pretty good life.  Mr. Chavez was the President of Venezuela from 1999 until 2013 when he died.  He was also the leader of the Fifth Republican Movement.  This party merged with several other parties to form the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.  He was the beneficiary of high oil revenues in the mid 2000's and focused on poverty, literacy and income inequality.  He was an outspoken leader and made alliances with Fidel and Raul Castro and other strong man leaders.  He symbolized a proud leader for his people and has many followers today.

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I was interested in Venezuela because it seemed like this leader had utilized the oil revenue to help his citizens.  He was an enemy of the United States because he leaned more towards a Marxist philosophy.  He supported Latin American and Caribbean cooperation and that was good for this area of islands that depend so much on tourism.  He died of cancer.  His death spawned novels such as Swan Song by Mexican novelist Norma Gomez.  This political thriller seems to imply U.S. involvement in his death.

I went to a performance by Betsayda Machado in July at the African American museum in Philadelphia.  This is a group of Afro-Venezuelan musicians who play congas and other instruments.  They were very passionate and I was able to understand their songs.  My many years of studying Spanish and my interest in the African diaspora made this one of the better nights of my summer.  I could not tell while they were singing that their country was undergoing major problems with finances and political intrigue.  Their singing was beautiful and in Spanish.  I have dialed up some of their songs on You Tube.

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Afro-Venezuelans are descendants of Africans in Venezuela.  They are hard to identify due to strong mixing of the population.  Most people living in slums in Venezuela are of African descent.  This makes me think that the problems facing the country now are magnified in areas where people of color live.  The first African slaves were bought to this country in 1528.  They were bought from the Congo and Angola.  They worked in copper mines and agriculture.  The emergence of cocoa caused large number of slaves to be imported.  I am quite sure that the stories of survival and heroism are there for one wanting to further study this history.

President Nicolas Maduro is struggling to maintain a sense of order in his country.  There are long lines for food and other basic staples of life.  The plummeting oil revenue that started under President Chavez have continued.  Social programs are being cut and dozens of people have been killed in protest related violence.  There is a new group of people called the Chavistas who want to continue the policies of Hugo Chavez.  Opposition leaders have been placed under house arrest and are living in fear.  Elected leaders are fearful that President Maduro is leaning towards a dictator type of government.  I hope that the people of Venezuela can find a peaceful way forward.  President Trump has threatened a military intervention.  I don't know what the objective of this action would be.  Good Luck and Viva Venezuela.

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