WHT Young Voices of Hope: Lessons from a Disaster
There is dual power in Venezuela, but the regime of Nicolas Maduro does not want to give up power.
Correspondent of the Russian Service “Voices of America” contacted a Venezuelan human rights defender Giannina Raffo (Giannina Raffo), who spoke about how people live and what people expect in her country.
MA: Does the media exaggerate the gravity of the situation in Venezuela – hunger and lack of access to essential goods?
Giannina Raffo: The media does not exaggerate what is happening now in Venezuela. I lived there for 24 years under both President Chavez and Maduro. Over the past 4-5 years, most of the population has significantly emaciated – because people do not eat enough. Accordingly, the number of diseases increased. There is no access to medicines, and if you manage, after much effort, to find the right medicine, it will be very expensive.
The middle class eats twice a day. Three meals a day will be very expensive, and besides, not all products can be bought.
All of these problems – with malnutrition and lack of access to medication – have recently escalated. And this creates a problem, for example, for children. They need to go to school. They get sick due to malnutrition, and if a person suddenly gets sick, he has no opportunity to get medicine. This is the cycle of disaster.
My family was middle-class. Mom and Dad were not rich people, but if we three times a day, I was able to get an education. After the Maduro government came to power, everything changed. Our family could only afford two meals a day, and we spent hours looking for food..
Giannina Raffo, human rights activist (photo from D. Raffo’s archive)
MA: I heard that a big role is played by “black market”…
D.R .: You can buy almost everything there: milk, dollars, and medicines, only ten times more expensive.
MA: Now the situation will change?
D.R .: I must admit that over the past couple of months it was not clear what to expect from the change of power. At first I was even surprised that it happened at all. But then there was hope. Because [Juan Guaido] is a new, young leader, he respects the Venezuelan Constitution. And he is supported by the National Assembly (parliament – author’s note), opinion leaders and academics. He surrounded himself with people who know how to save the country. So there is hope in me.
MA: What do you think about Russia’s support for the Maduro government? And how the Venezuelan society reacts to it?
D.R. Russia’s involvement in the situation in Venezuela is no secret. Everyone knows about it. They [Russia] own a part of our land, have stakes in our enterprises, they gave loans to the Maduro government. We know that the Maduro government is cooperating with Putin in the areas of resources, oil, finance. And if they do not repay the debts, the consequences will be felt by us, the society. Russia is now offering to side with Maduro. But this is an economic interest. Russia supports Maduro, not because it likes his ideology or Maduro himself. This is because the Russians have invested a lot of money in our country and do not want to lose it. However, I am sure that because of this very economic interest, they will probably recognize the new government in the future and understand that Maduro is no longer the president and will not be able to fulfill what he promised. Of course, it will be difficult, but I hope the transfer of power from one government to another will be peaceful..
MA: How do you assess the role of the United States?
D.R. : About 80% of our media are controlled by the government, almost like in Russia. Therefore, their narrative is very pro-government. As a result, people have no access to reality..
The first thing the US did was to recognize Guaido as interim president. Like many others – Canada, the states of Europe and Latin America. And now they are trying to help by placing guanitary aid in the neighboring countries of Venezuela – Colombia and Brazil. In addition, the US does not say that it is against the people of Venezuela, it is against the dictator Marduro..
It is quite interesting how the media in Cuba or Russia talk about this. I don’t think Venezuelans would call it “American invasion”. People just need access to American humanitarian aid. Because, depending on what ideology people adhere to, they need to eat something. And this is something that we can no longer hide – how people live in Venezuela. Their lack of basic human rights is of great concern.