SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC HERALD
The economic crisis in Venezuela is getting worse by the day, as a political showdown between the nation’s president, Nicolas Maduro, and interim President Juan Guaido slogs on.
With the border closed to Brazil to block aid, and a recent blackout that affected 18 of its 23 states, food was left rotting in refrigerators, hospitals struggled to keep vital equipment operational and the transportation system was in chaos. The desperate ones searched for food in stores laid bare or shuttered and formed long lines in front of the occasional bakery that dared to open. Many businesses were left in shambles of shattered glass and smoldering embers.
The blackout left 26 people dead and squatters taking over abandoned homes. All the unrest and uncertainly helped Fr. Mauricio Fernández Boscan, pastor of St. Adalbert Parish, decide to collect supplies and non-perishable food for his native country.
“The political and social crisis in Venezuela is at a critical point. I have three sisters and their families still living in Venezuela. There is a food and medicine shortage,” he explained. “Therefore, I am appealing to my parish community of San Adalbert and other apostolic groups to support a collection drive to aid Venezuela. All items are being dropped off at the parish rectory.”
Fr. Boscan left Venezuela for the United States in July 2010. His mother lives in the U.S. but traveled to Maracaibo in January on a tourist visa, but due to the dangerous conditions, he had to bring her back a month later.
The country’s hyperinflationary crisis has made food and medicine unaffordable for most citizens, fueling widespread malnutrition, especially among children, and a rise in preventable diseases.
The United Nations estimates that about a quarter of Venezuelans need humanitarian assistance, according to an internal UN report seen by Reuters.
“My sisters recently spent nine days without electricity and imagine, we are from Maracaibo where the temperatures are in the 100s all year round,” he said. “Mariana, one of my sisters, suffers from heart issues related to high blood pressure. This situation threatened her life. It is very hard for her and many Venezuelans to get their medications. My father, Bertilio Fernandez, died two years ago from a heart attack; he started with symptoms early in the morning, but it was close to midnight when my relatives were able to find a hospital to get him an EKG to learn that he was dying. A month ago, Milagros, one of my cousins died from a stroke without treatment.”
The socioeconomic crises began 20 years ago after the late Hugo Chavez became president of Venezuela. In 2001, Fr. Boscan lived through the food and gas shortage, and now he said the country of Venezuela lives in a dictatorship and cries for help from all nations. He fears for his family’s safety.
“There are crimes everywhere,” he said. “I just learned that people have broken into other’s homes searching for food and water. The Venezuelan government is threatening and killing anyone that wishes to protest and defend their lives within this chaos.”
While his family and many from his country hope to emigrate from Venezuela, the process is difficult for several reasons. Citizens could leave by bus but would be bankrupt as soon as they entered another country as their currency, the bolívar, is not recognized in neighboring Colombia. Most Venezuelans do not have a passport to fly out of the country and the government is not granting them. Flights are too expensive anyway for most individuals. The process to leave is risky and difficult, said Fr. Boscan.
“This drive is so important for those that will receive (the items), we will be providing with some meals as the scarcity is very bad. We can save lives,” he said. “Everything that arrives at the parish by April 14, will be sent to Venezuela. Donations will be accepted in items or cash at St. Adalbert Parish office, Tuesday through Friday, Saturday morning and after Masses on Sunday.”
Fr. Boscan plans to send the food and supplies through Rudy Export, a private shipping company that will safely transport the items to the country. He said he has utilized this company’s services before when sending items to his family.
“The price for each box that is 18 by 18 by 24 will cost $130,” he said. “Venezuelans are very grateful for all the help and support given by the U.S. government officials and the governments of Colombia, Paraguay and Chile.”
Donations of needed items or cash can be dropped off at St. Adalbert Parish office
1923 W. Becher, Milwaukee
Monday-Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. to noon
Sunday: after all Masses
Food items needed
Grains: Rice, beans
Canned – non-perishable – Tuna, chicken, meat
Sauces: Mayonnaise, tomato, mustard
For adults and children:
Aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, etc.
Nausea and antidiarrheal medication
Pedialyte in Powder Packs
Disposable diapers – for adults and babies
Money donations are acceptable, to offset the shipping cost to send the aid to Venezuela. All boxes have a weight limit of 120 pounds.