Colombia lends a helping hand to Venezuela in time of need

By Kiara Torres

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On August 11, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos agreed to reopen the border between the two countries due to an economic crisis that caused food shortages in Venezuela. On August 13, Venezuelan citizens were able to travel to the border in order to receive food, medicine, and hygienic supplies.

“We will issue a border document for residents, but also to control who enters and who exits the country,” Santos said to Telesur.

Grocery markets have limited resources making necessities for daily life difficult to come by in Venezuela. Supermarkets stock miscellaneous items like ketchup in order to keep shelves full but do not carry all of the essentials. When food is available, hundreds of citizens line up.

The Venezuelan economic crisis is caused by the global decrease in oil prices which is the country’s main source of income. According to Public Radio International (PRI), inflation in Venezuela continues to rise yearly. In 2015, the country’s inflation rate was 275% and could have an inflation rate of 720% by the end of 2016, according to Bloomberg.

Currently there are four exchange rates in place in which the government sells the national currency called Bolivares for 6.3, 12, and 172 per dollar, while the fourth exchange rate is set by the black market, according to Bloomberg. The first two exchange rates cover government approved priorities like food and medicine depending on their importance, and the third is for everything else not sanctioned as necessary by the government.

The average monthly income for a Venezuelan is equivalent to about $20. Citizens frequently buy products on the black market as a result of empty stores which often causes them to spend more money than they would have at a grocery store which has regulated prices. If people resort to buying products on the black market, they could spend their entire monthly income on just three kilos of rice.

Consequently, families have found it difficult to care for their children. There has been a rise in infanticide because citizens cannot afford to feed and buy diapers for their babies. The disappearance of birth control also makes it difficult to control unwanted pregnancies.

According to Foreign Policy, Venezuela needs global communities to recognize their shared interest in Venezuela due to its production of and export of large amounts of petroleum. That importation requires Venezuela to be able to pay its debts, refrain from destabilizing its neighbors, and effectively address its humanitarian crisis.

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