For a long time there has not been enough food and medicine in Venezuela. The country’s Catholic bishops sound the alarm. And also the relief organization Adveniat reports of inhumane conditions.
Interviewer: Gasoline is scarce in the country and inflation is at 2.900 percent one of the highest in the world. Step by step, President Maduro has stripped the parliament of its power in recent weeks and months, seizing more and more power. Again and again there are therefore protests in the country, which usually end bloody, because the security forces act brutally against it. Everywhere there is unrest and also looting.
You have just spent three and a half weeks in Venezuela. What have you experienced there?
Reiner Wilhelm (consultant at the Catholic Latin America relief organization Adveniat): It was a situation on the ground that still does not let me go to this day. I have seen people looking for food in the garbage. On the ground, some have to buy banknotes because there is too little money in circulation. There are hardly any vehicles left on the roads because many have been shut down, because there is a lack of repairs or spare parts, or because there is no lubricating oil, and this in a country where the people live on the oil, so to speak.
You see many people smuggling so that they can survive. People’s monthly wages range from two to three euros. The commercial prices are similar to ours in Europe or Germany. The money is not enough in front and behind. On the other hand, I have seen a lot of solidarity. People sit together, they cook and eat together, so that they can get through the day reasonably well.
Interviewer: The Church in Venezuela has just ied a letter on the current situation, the bishops condemn Maduro’s policies and dramatic supply situation in the country. This is already unusually political, isn’t it? How does the government react??
Wilhelm: So far, the government has not reacted at all to the church’s statements. But the Church is the only voice left in this country that can stand up and call attention to the current plight. The government says there is no problem, we have no emergency, there is medicine and food to buy everywhere. But of course the situation is very different.
The only situation in which the government reacted was when it felt attacked during the great pilgrimage in January. Two bishops there have denounced the situation. This was broadcast nationally and then Maduro also unleashed hate speech against the church and tried to sue both bishops. The incident has fizzled out, but you can also see from it that nerves are on edge on both sides.
Interviewer: Venezuela has the richest oil reserves of the continent. Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, also a socialist, had taken office promising to work for the poorest people. What went wrong with the "socialism of the 21st century"?. Century"?
Wilhelm: Corruption is everywhere. So socialism or not, it doesn’t matter at all. People are trying to survive. There are the people who have become rich through socialism. The rich have remained rich. The system itself is so corrupt that only a small elite benefits, and they have put so much money into their own pockets that nothing is left for the common good.
Interviewer: On 20. May presidential elections to be held in Venezuela. What do you expect from it?
William: The elections are a big ie. The question is, of course, does it make sense to call presidential elections right now, even though the president will remain in office until early next year. Maduro tries by all means to hold on to power. At the moment, the situation is still manageable, which is why people will still vote for him. But in itself it does not make sense to bring forward the elections.
Interviewer: Can anyone calm the situation or is Venezuela heading for civil war??
William: I see the situation very calmly. People have the possibility to emigrate. That’s what four to five million people have now done. The fact that it remains so quiet has to do with the fact that the population is being supplied with money by relatives from abroad. So they definitely have the possibility to buy something with their own means, even if little. When they have no more options, they can still leave the country.
Interviewer: How Adveniat, as the Catholic relief organization for Latin America, is trying to support the people?
Wilhelm: We are in the process of helping exactly in these tables, to give people something like meat and proteins, so that they do not completely emaciate. Some of the people have lost up to eleven kilos in the last two years. Furthermore, Adveniat, through the help that we Sisters give to the priests, is trying to make it possible for the Church to be on the ground and to assist the people.
The interview was conducted by Silvia Ochlast.