The recently founded Venezuelan Community in Ireland seeks to assist Venezuelans living without access to healthcare and basic necessities back in Venezuela among other aims. They have been spurred on by the social situation back home.
Venezuela’s subsequent long-term economic situation led to many students losing funding to study in Ireland and elsewhere in 2014. Students expecting tranches of money – Venezuelan currency that they had put into accounts themselves in order to convert while abroad – were effectively abandoned by the Venezuelan state. Unable to pay rent, fees or other necessities, they were either forced to return home or to find enough money and work to stay in their host countries.
We spoke to one of the members of the Venezuelan Community in Ireland, Marianella, about why it is necessary to raise these funds for her people back home.
People are literally dying through starvation, lack of medicines or violence. My father has prostate cancer, and there is no medication or treatment for cancer in the country, which is supposed to be provided by the Venezuelan Institute for Social Security (IVSS). In my father’s case, we are able to pay for very expensive medication and send it to him from overseas. But not many are in this – actually lucky – situation in Venezuela. Everyone has their own story.
The Labour Party leadership has recently been criticised for not being negative enough in its attacks on the Venezuelan government. A socialist could argue from an international perspective, for instance, that it was not the policy of the Venezuelan government that the students didn’t get their funding, but its failures – and we could call them incompetent at worst. Is that wrong?
It is not possible to say that because there was no other way for a student to obtain foreign currency beyond through the government, and after they had already approved your application and you were already abroad, it is a huge irresponsibility to say the least that the government cuts off the payments.
But was it policy, or incompetence? Did they simply run out of money?
There are different ideologies, let’s say – I have my position on the government, and yes it is bad, it is no doubt incompetent. But from an economic perspective, people within the country are suffering far heavier issues than the problems faced by Venezuelans overseas, and it is creating a lot of controversy around the world. The only criticism Corbyn made is that the Venezuelan economy was over-reliant on oil. But there are few countries with this over-reliance on oil that would be in the same situation.
Even now, the US is sanctioning some people within the Venezuelan government, levelling charges of corruption, human rights violations, and collusion in undermining democratic processes, but we still have the economic connection. These sanctions are not against Venezuela as a country. Venezuela is not in the same situation as – for instance – Cuba or Iran. There are positives and negatives but the truth is this government started by Chavez has been going for eighteen years. He had one of the richest periods in the history of Venezuela and yet he completely mismanaged the budgets. We are in default unable to pay our debts, only paying part of the interest. We can’t pay our suppliers. Because of the political and social and economic upheaval, many choose to stay away from the homeland.
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