The situation in Venezuela is very bad right now. We have had one hundred and twenty days of civic rebellion in the country. We have had over 95 protestors killed in specific demonstrations. The government is going to impose a new constitution the 30th of July, which will switch the country to a unity party political system. That means death for the opposition in an official sense. That means that we will have no more political leadership from the opposition. They will probably face arrest and that means that this is possibly the last window of opportunity for the Venezuelan people to be freed from this regime.
The economic situation is appalling. We have over 1,000 percent inflation and a decrease of eight percent in GDP. The level of shortages is enormous. We have shortages of medicine, shortages of food, shortages of basic products like toilet paper, soap, and toothpaste.
Coupled with that, the government is involved with narcotrafficking and criminality as well, with criminal gangs inside the country. Venezuela has the world’s number one murder rate, and it is also the number one country in the proportion of murders that go unpunished. Ninety-five percent of murders in Venezuela go unpunished.
Yet even with all media censored by the government or state-owned, the opposition is in active rebellion. The government has a full 80 percent of the people against them. Just last Sunday, we had the biggest act of civil disobedience that our region has ever seen. 7.5 million people put their lives at risk and participated in an unofficial referendum to push for a transitional government.
The government is weak not because it doesn’t have the arms—it does—but because that’s the only thing that they do have. The country is freeing its conscience, the people are fiercely fighting for their freedom, and the opposition is more united than ever. Right now we will need all the support from the international community that we can get. And we will need all the support from Providence as well. I am confident that the tide is changing in Venezuela, and that hopefully we’ll be able to see a transition to a democratic era.
At the same time, I have to remark, I am incredibly touched by the audience here, and humbled. I see the faces of the people in this room and I can see the torture, the imprisonment, the misery that our people face. These are human lives that are on the line. Dramas that are faced daily by a lot of civilians who are unfairly imprisoned, unfairly persecuted, by people who simply have no future and who have repressed their consciences. But luckily there are a lot of activists around this table, and that gives me hope as well. It is remarkable how in the communist countries there has always been that push for freedom in the people’s hearts and souls and that is the case with Venezuela as well.