For two RHS students, the crisis in Venezuela is personal

The UN reported 3 million people have fled Venezuela since Nicolás Maduro’s presidency. Senior Emilio Botte and sophomore Marcelo Raga are two of them.

Political and economic factors have fueled mass exodus. Botte immigrated to the US in August of 2016. He like many others was indirectly suffering from the inflation occurring in Venezuela.

“My mom’s a teacher. She didn’t make enough money for us to keep going. So she had to look for a job and she found a program that could bring her over here with a visa. So here I am” said Botte.

Raga immigrated in December of 2018. Raga named safety as the main reason for leaving.

“My mom primarily wanted to come here to help my family. From outside you can help more.”  said Raga.

Nicolás Maduro became president of Venezuela in 2013 after the death of socialist president Hugo Chavez. During his first term in office, the economy went into freefall and many Venezuelans blamed him and his government for the country’s decline. Despite Maduro pledging to help the country, many citizens took to the streets to protest his presidency.

Maduro began his second term earlier last month despite criticism of election fraud. Meanwhile, Head of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó declared himself as the Venezuelan president. Guaidó has become recognized as the country’s legitimate leader by most western countries. President Trump recognized Guiado in December.

“The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime,” tweeted Trump. “Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the Interim President of Venezuela.”

Raga and Botte both approve of Guaido.

“I personally think that’s the guy that’s gonna get us out of the situation, [he traveled] he just did a tour around South America asking for help” said Botte.

Regardless, Maduro refuses to step down and still has the Venezuelan military on his side. The power struggle between the Venezuelan leaders and its people have the country on the brink of collapse.

Since Maduro’s presidency, the once rich country has been in a downward spiral. The people of Venezuela continue to suffer from the state of their country. For about a week in March 2019, 70% of the country was left without electricity causing many to lack running water. The power outages caused chaos in hospitals, leaving many patients to be transferred or to rely on generators. A graphic image of a mother, Elizabeth Diaz, carrying her dead 22 lb 19-year old daughter to a morgue after being denied from multiple hospitals due to the power outage went viral that same week. Since the multitudes of deaths, Guaidó declared a national emergency.

The majority of the country also can not afford the scarce amount of food left. Maduro’s government is denying $60 millions worth of U.S aid to enter the country. Crates full of medical supply, water, and food are currently sitting in warehouses in Cucuta, a border town in Colombia. Maduro refused the aid, saying he will not allow Venezuela to become a country of beggars.

Botte’s and Raga’s own family and friends back in Venezuela are suffering from Maduro’s leadership.

“My grandma is in the situation where they haven’t had any meat for the last six months at least. They’re living off beans and grains” said Botte.

Many countries around the world have begun to voice their opinions on the state of Venezuela. Both students believe other countries should intervene in the country.

“They have to intervene,” Botte said. “It’s not only a violation of our law, it’s a violation of human rights.”

However, Botte also does not want his country to become a third party in a proxy war.

“[I don’t want it to become] another Vietnam, another Korea where it’s just a proxy war between two governments,” he said.

Maduro asks that no country get involved. He warned Trump of US intervention,

“Let’s respect each other, or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?” he told the Spanish television program Salvados.

Raga believes the majority of Venezuelans want intervention now. He believes the faster the country can get out of that situation the safer the country will become. Raga still has hope to one day return to Venezuela.

“In Venezuela we have everything,” he said. “We have the cars, the house, everything we didn’t sell…and most importantly family.”

His family choose not to sell their belongings in hope of one day Venezuela being freed allowing them to return to their homeland. But he knows reparations will take years, from building new companies to foreign investments.

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