The Programa Venezolano de Educacion – Accion en Derechos Humanos [Venezuelan Program for Education and Action on Human Rights] (PROVEA) is an NGO that works to promote human rights in Venezuela through the tracking and dissemination of social, economic and cultural information.
Last night, PROVEA representatives spoke before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and pointed out that poverty levels in Venezuela today are the same they were in the year 2000, effectively erasing all of the gains made by Hugo Chavez to lessen its stranglehold on Venezuelan families.
Rafael Uzcategui, PROVEA’s coordinator, said:
In three years, Nicolas Maduro has dismantled the social advanced that his predecessor achieved over 12 year. Venezuela will end 2015 with a number of poor similar to what it saw in 2000.
Uzcategui pointed out that in the year 2000, 46.3% of Venezuelans – approximately 11 million people – were poor. Chavez’s numerous poverty-reduction initiatives lowered the number to 33% in a few years, and by 2012 21.2% of Venezuelans were poor. The downward trend in poverty ended in 2013, when the rate shot up to 27%, roughly equal to 9.2 million people.
In 2014, the government stopped releasing official poverty figures, leaving organizations like PROVEA with the task of collecting their own data. According Uzcategui, PROVEA’s research points to approximately 10 million people living in poverty in Venezuela today.
During the same meeting, the former head of the Inter-American Human Rights Court, lamented the lack of judicial independence in Venezuela, and said that there were no more checks on the government, effectively rendering it all-powerful.
Opposition Deputy Demands PDVSA Scandal be Addressed
Accion Democratica National Assembly Deputy Cesar Rincones called on the government today to finally address allegations that PDVSA and her executives were involved in money laundering schemes through the Banca Privada D’Andorra. The Venezuelan government has yet to acknowledge the allegations by the United States Treasury Department.
Rincones accused the government of creating a smokescreen to divert people’s attention from the allegations, saying:
Defending our sovereignty shouldn’t be something we use to cover up corruption, as is the case with what the government has done by saying that we’re going to defend ourselves against an alleged North American invasion. What the government really has to do is explain if PDVSA is really laundering money and if that money is really in U.S. dollars in banks overseas, because that really does hurt the nation.
Smuggling Continues to Pose Challenges
The Associated Press published an article today documenting Venezuela’s struggles with smuggling and corruption as the economic crisis intensifies unabated.
The article’s author, Jacobo Garcia, explains how goods such as rice, toothpaste, and flour can be smuggled into Colombia and sold at exuberant profits. For example, Garcia notes that while a kilogram of rice in Caracas sells for 26 bolivares, it can sell for up to 15 times more in Colombia.
The lure of profit is so big irresistible that authorities have stopped 120,000 tons of goods from being smuggled across into Colombia over the last six months.
Goods sold in Venezuela re subject to a number of regulations that determine their price. The Ley de Precios Justos [Fair Price Law], while aimed at ensuring even the poorest Venezuelans have access to basic necessities, create the kinds of economic distortions that make smuggling a lucrative option for many struggling citizens.