Solidarity Christmas in Venezuela, despite the crisis and poverty

(Vatican News).- In Venezuela, officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Christmas is expected with the load of spirituality and faith that characterizes the Venezuelan people, but also with the heaviness at the social level of very hard years due to the economic and political crisis. The head of state has been Nicolás Maduro since 2013. In 2019 a difficult stage began in which the president was challenged by Juan Guaidó and protests and tensions multiplied in the country.

After various events and implications also in terms of international relations, last month, in Mexico City, representatives of the government and the opposition signed an agreement to deal with the humanitarian emergency in the country. A social round table was organized with three representatives from both parties. Among the issues under discussion is the $3 billion in Venezuelan state funds that have been frozen by US financial sanctions.

The funds will be supervised by the UN and will be used to address shared priorities so far including health care, child nutrition and infrastructure rehabilitation basics of Venezuela. The parties expressed a renewed commitment to the initial agenda created in August 2021.

In their joint statement from Mexico, lThe parties agreed to continue negotiations on the remaining items on the agendawhich include political rights, the rule of law, reparation for victims, the lifting of economic sanctions and credible electoral conditions for the 2024 presidential elections.

These talks are likely to continue in Caracas, with Mexico acting more as a platform to announce the finalized deals. This is the fifth attempt at dialogue with international mediation in Venezuela in the last eight yearsafter failing the previous ones.

An emergency not yet overcome

There is no longer a lack of food or basic medicines, but the prices are very expensive for the majority of the population. Venezuela has problems even if they don’t talk about it, as Assunta Di Pino, vice president of the Latin America-Italy Association (Ali) explains:

After the phase of great attention from the media and the help that came from many parts of the world -says Di Pino-, today Venezuela seems forgotten, as if the sociopolitical problems had ended and the economy was good.

venezuelan poverty

The country, according to Di Pino, has disappeared from the media, but the Christmas Eve that we are going to live shows the same concern as in the years between 2017 and 2019, when at least there was talk of the disaster in Venezuela. International attention is crucial for aid to reach a country. And Ali’s vice president admits that she doesn’t understand why there doesn’t seem to be the political will at the national level, but also internationally, to change things, as there is, she says, in other Latin American countries that are experiencing great difficulties.

The poor and “dollarization”

It is difficult to understand why, despite so many natural resources, Venezuela lives in a precarious economic situation. Venezuela is considered a developing country with an economy based mainly on the extraction, refining and commercialization of oil and other mineral resources.

Agriculture is now of little importance, while industry has developed unevenly in recent decades. Di Pino describes what he calls a “dollarization” process. He means that, to face the serious economic crisis, dollars have been injected into the financial circuit, with the consequence -he explains- that today many of the available goods can be paid for in dollars or euros.

Crisis in Venezuela

In this regard, Di Pino clarifies that the cost of gasoline has gone from a few cents to prices practically equal to those in Europe, with the difference that the salaries are not comparable. In Venezuela there is the possibility of using concerted places at prices in line with the cost of living in the country, but Di Pino affirms that you have to queue for about two days before being able to access them and this causes enormous problems for those who work.

The vice president of the association reports a situation that has changed compared to the scenario of scarcity and suffering of past years, but he affirms that very few can afford to buy products in the large and ultramodern supermarkets that have sprung up in the country, and in Caracas in particular.

protests in Venezuela

Di Pino underlines the difficulty of a social context in which the bolivar is practically no longer used to spend, but fixed salaries and pensions are paid in bolivars. In fact, he points out that, according to United Nations estimates, some seven million Venezuelans need humanitarian aid inside the country and the crisis has led another seven million to flee in recent years. He stresses that the country’s rich are few and have grown richer in recent years, while the poor have multiplied and the middle class no longer exists.

An explosion of solidarity

According to Assunta Di Pino, the ability of the Venezuelan people to put themselves into play with generosity is extraordinary. She speaks of “a people with warm hearts and strong feelings” who “with a great heart and humanity and a strong spiritual impulse gave the best of themselves during the crisis.” Di Pino assures that solidarity initiatives have multiplied in the country: even very simple people lend a hand for what they can in the structures they support, for example, the non-profit organization Latin America-Italy. Many, he says, have come to ask for help, but many have also offered and continue to offer a hand.

Ancestral traditions for Christmas hope

Di Pino also highlights the spirituality with which Christmas is lived in Venezuela, which is palpable in the participation in liturgical acts but also in the love with which ancestral traditions are preserved, such as the one that sees young people skate in groups around the church where they will later participate in the Christmas novena or mass. A peculiar way of living in community also the preparation of moments of prayer.

This Christmas, Digital Religion

Solidarity Christmas in Venezuela, despite the crisis and poverty