Comment: Venezuelans need all the help they can get

JENNIFER JAHNKE

Re: “Canadians should reject our shameful Venezuelan policy,” comment, March 3.

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As a Canadian and a Venezuelan, I am appalled to see how lightly the Venezuelan crisis is used to question Canada’s international policy and its alignment to the United States.

Despite the recent surge of news on the Venezuelan crisis, I wonder if Canadians truly know what is going on in Venezuela. Aside from sandy beaches and petroleum abundance, do Canadians understand the magnitude of the crisis?

Shortages of food, medicine and basic goods reach 90 per cent. According to the UN Refugee Agency, an estimated 2.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country. The regime uses access to food as an extortion and political-control mechanism.

According to latest figures from Foro Penal, a Venezuelan human rights organization, 989 political prisoners are currently detained with no fair trial. About 64 per cent of the population has lost an average of 20 pounds during recent years, not because of healthy eating habits but because of starvation. Seventy-eight per cent of the infant population is on the verge of malnutrition, while the regime refused the entry of humanitarian aid donated by the U.S., Canada and other countries.

Roughly 23,000 Venezuelans were killed in 2018 due to uncontrollable street violence, and only one week of anti-government protests left 35 dead and 850 arrested in January.

Hyperinflation exceeded one million per cent in 2018 and is projected to reach 10 million per cent in 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The minimum monthly wage is $20. Hundreds of newspaper and radio stations have been shut down since 1999. Elections are rigged and, not surprisingly, the regime always wins. Unfortunately, examples are plentiful.

These numbers are not merely statistics: Venezuelans are real people who suffer unimaginable challenges.

Our ongoing struggle for democratic political representation has been ignored by the world for many years. The late president Hugo Chavez’s popularity and charisma diverted attention away from his leftist totalitarianism, leaving the Venezuelan people in ruins.

Now that the world is finally listening, and the rampant violence and human-rights violations have been brought to light, foreign assistance is needed more than ever. For the past 20 years, Venezuelans have voted, marched, protested, signed petitions, marched again and voted again. No one had to tell me this statistic because I, along with my friends and relatives, have lived it.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to live in Canada, while my fellow Venezuelans continue to perish. I support the alliance between the United States and Canada if it helps the cause of restoring democracy and freedom to my country.

More than 60 countries have recognized interim president Juan Guaidó as legitimate. I hope many more follow.

Jennifer Jahnke lives in Victoria.

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