By Sharon Gomez
Deadly clashes broke out in Venezuelan border towns on February 23rd as President Nicolás Maduro blocked humanitarian aid from entering the country. Venezuelan troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at volunteers attempting to collect and transport the aid packages, which included scarce and vital food and medicine. As a result of these clashes, 4 people were killed and 285 people were injured, of which 37 were hospitalised.
Jaun Guaidó, leader of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, organised the collection of hundreds of tonnes of foreign aid at the country’s borders. In response, Maduro partly closed the country’s borders with Brazil and Colombia. Guaidó insists that citizens need help, while Maduro views aid as a ploy by the US to invade the country.
Guaidó declared himself the country’s interim leader after claiming that Maduro’s rule was constitutionally illegitimate because he held a fraudulent general election in 2018. More than 60 countries, including the US, Canada and the majority of the Western European countries, have recognised Guaidó as interim president. Meanwhile, Maduro’s allies include China, Cuba, and Russia.
Venezuela was once the richest country in Latin America. It has the largest known oil reserves in the world and its democratic government was once praised worldwide. Today, it has the highest inflation rate in the world, making food and medicine inaccessible to most Venezuelans. Over the last 4 years, its GDP has fallen by 35% which is a sharper drop than was seen during the Great Depression in the US. The country’s murder rate has also surpassed that of the most dangerous cities in the world and at least 2.7 million people have fled the country since 2015. The economic collapse is a result of years of economic mismanagement and corruption which has taken place under Maduro’s authoritarian rule. With Maduro unlikely to change his stance in the foreseeable future, it is likely that these border clashes will continue as Venezuelans become more and more desperate for international aid.