Venezuela is falling back into ‘extreme poverty,’ archbishop says

Venezuela banner WYD Jan 24 2019 Credit Jonah McKeown CNA CNA A Pray for Venezuela banner at Campo Santa Maria la Antigua in Panama City, Jan. 24, 2019. | Jonah McKeown/CNA.

Ulises Gutiérrez, the archbishop of Ciudad Bolívar and second vice president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, lamented that the country is falling back into “extreme poverty.”

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Gutiérrez noted that “hunger is more acute every day; there is great need in all sectors of the country.”

“We have six soup kitchens where 100 meals a day are given to children and the elderly,” he said, adding that “maintaining these soup kitchens is extremely expensive and we’re looking for resources,” most of which “come from the outside with the support of Cáritas.”

To demonstrate the seriousness of the situation in the country, the prelate pointed out that the salary of a doctor “is seven dollars a month” while “basic nutrition is 400 dollars.”

“It’s impossible to sustain yourself with these starvation wages,” he stressed.

After more than 20 years of the socialist dictatorship initiated by former President Hugo Chavez and continued by his successor, political ally Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela is suffering from a social and economic crisis that many compare to Cuba’s.

A recent report from the Venezuelan Economic Finance Observatory reported that the annualized inflation rate in the country was 440%.

The archbishop of Ciudad Bolívar told ACI Prensa that in the country, “the economy has not improved at all; rather, it’s getting worse.”

“They kept the currency stable, more or less, injecting dollars into the Central Bank. But this fell apart beginning in the month of December,” he continued.

The prelate lamented that currently “there are 8 million Venezuelans outside the country.”

“We receive a lot of aid from abroad, but sometimes it’s [only] for periods of time,” he said.

“Unfortunately, hopelessness remains very deep-seated and there is a great sadness among the population,” he said.

With presidential elections expected to be held 2024, some believe it could mean the end of the Chavista regime. There are many obstacles to overcome, however.

Gutiérrez opined that “there is still no strong candidate. Nor do we see in the distance a rebound so the population could once again have hope.”

For the archbishop, it’s evident “that the opposition agrees with the government.”

“There are some leaders who are really against the government, but the people have lost faith,” he said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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