(Stillness in the Storm Editor) As many of you know, there are dire situations all over the planet that require our attention for healing and restoration. Venezuela is a nation that has become the focus of media attention of late. And there is a growing interest in providing some kind of support for downtrodden people there.
Antonio Chinea is a Venezuelan activist who contacted Stillness in the Storm in an effort to raise awareness and offer some clarity about the situation unfolding there. Like many looking on from their homes elsewhere in the world, we want to know what is really happening, and what we can do to help. Chinea offers a boots-on-the-ground testimony of the current status there along with a way to contribute towards causes that could lead to meaningful change.
In our age of pandemic corruption, destruction of the environment, and enslavement of the masses, what can an individual do? The solution is simple, yet requires steadfast dedication in all respects. Nearly all the problems we face on Earth are a product of ignorance and separation consciousness. We’ve been taught to think that the hardships of another country, nation, or social group are someone else’s problem—but is this really true?
I personally think as a human family, we have the power to love and support each other in all ways. And the current situation in Venezuela seems to be one such venue for developing cooperative relationships with our fellows so as to collectively restore balance to this troubled world.
Venezuela: Oil, Gold, and the Coming Ecological Catastrophe
by Antonio Chinea
A little bit of history.
Most publications on mainstream media regard the situation in Venezuela as one where the “evil government” is keeping the whole population prisoner and starving them to death. The classical good vs evil argument. In truth, the reality is very intricate, multi-layered and complex.
As the saying goes, we must look at history to have a better understanding of the situation at hand. During the early 1910s, oil exploitation started to develop in Venezuela. In the following years a process is known in our history as the “Farmer Exodus” had its beginning. As families migrated to cities and mining sites the country started its transformation from an agricultural economy to an oil-based economy, up to the point where more than 90% of the income of this green and fertile land now comes from oil exports. Little by little as the decades went by these people were relegated to slums and with time they became an underclass that was known as “marginals”.
Back then when Venezuela was still a Spanish colony we were one of the largest coffee and cacao exporters in the world. Our war for independence consisted mostly of a revolt of white Creole landowners that wanted to take political power from the white Spanish governors (and one could probably say pretty much the same about every single country in the South American Continent). The social structure was formed by a mostly euro-descendant white class ruling over a mestizo, Indian and black underclass.
With the arrival of oil this structure somehow maintained itself, with a highly corrupt, classist and racist business class at the helm, and a mixed upper-middle class that had preferential access to the top universities and jobs and was largely educated in schools owned by the Jesuits, Augustinian, and several other monastic orders.
Things started to change once Hugo Chávez became president in 1998. Shortly after he arrived in power he started to go against the grain of what was established by the previous governments which were heavily aligned with Washington. He also gave voice to the lower social classes who were pretty much politically ignored until then. Thus began a political conflict that goes on until today. Soon, an opposition appeared, formed mostly by representatives of the private sector and the previous political elite.
A severe polarisation process took place in our society. Shortly, after Chávez took a seat in the government, a vigorous campaign was launched against his presidency, involving all the main media outlets and biggest PR firms in the country. After a failed coup d’etat and an oil strike the government reacted to these attacks by creating several TV stations and other media channels. Since then, the Venezuelan population has been subjected to a strong stream of propaganda coming from both sides of the political spectrum, one side always trying to blame the other for all the problems in the country. Enormous economic resources would go wasted on this constant conflict. The government instead of implementing efficient and resolute economic solutions would often resort to populist measures just for show, these maneuvers would be heavily featured in the media. Many projects would not get done since its administrators would often steal the money and leave them unfinished. High oil prices would help to maintain the government’s spending spree. The opposition, on the other hand, used its links with big business to sabotage the government actions.
Soon paramilitary organisations came through the Colombian border and started to create havoc, getting involved with the drug trade, kidnappings, and the arms trade. Crime began to rise as a result.
Rumours of food scarcity started to spread; people would cautiously stockpile on products, just in case.
Usually, before an election, some basic products would go missing. And meanwhile on Facebook, I would often see ad banners calling for support propaganda candidates. I would get emails from my twitter account—which I haven’t used for years—informing me of tweets telling me how dire the situation is. My mobile would ring and I would get automated voice messages from opposition political candidates. It was clear that the people were being manipulated.
The current situation: economic crisis and food scarcity.
As the Saudis kept overproducing oil, its price went down, hitting our already troubled economy hard. The government is broke, hardly keeping the situation under control, food is scarce, several products are hard to get and people must endure long lines in order to get certain food stuffs.
A large sector of the population dedicates itself to buy cheap food and products in excessive amounts, reselling them for exorbitant prices. Strangely, there never seems to be any lack of artificial soft drinks. Now and then the government discovers huge hidden caches of products with expired dates. Even though the price of the black market dollar has been stable during the last few months, food prices keep increasing. Price speculation is the norm; crime is rampant.
A recent drought caused water and power shortages. The social fabric is falling apart, a lot of people are in survival mode and conniving each other. There is a lot of distrust. Pretty much everyone is going through an existential crisis. Lots of people are leaving the country or considering it seriously. After being on edge for almost 20 years some Venezuelans are really going crazy—and it seems to all be by design.
Medicine is scarce and it’s bad business to get sick nowadays. Oddly enough, a lot of people are healthier since their economic situation forced them to stop drinking alcohol and consuming sugar and flour. Many are now more selective and thoughtful about what they eat. Fresh vegetables and fruit are still available, and you don’t even need to stand in line to get them but they are expensive. Some went vegetarian because the meat was overpriced. But when vendors realised people were buying more grains and legumes their prices exponentially rose, and now one kilogram of lentils is more expensive than the same quantity of meat!
Among the population, you’ll find those who blame everything on the government, those who think President Maduro is a traitor to Chávez ideals, those who still follow him, and those who don’t believe anymore in any of the political players in the country.
And this is how we stand. The western mainstream media portrays this whole situation as the result of an “authoritarian” regime and tries to create a context to proclaim a humanitarian crisis. For years the opposition and several NGOs have been trying to create a scenario that justifies a foreign intervention in the country. Both the opposition and these NGOs are financed by the likes of the United States Agency for International Development, The National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, The US State Department, Open Society Foundations (founded by George Soros) and the Konrad Adenauer
The high levels of corruption within the government and its failed economic policies have also significantly contributed to the crisis we face here in Venezuela. The high prevalence of the military within the structures of government has created a monstrous State. In Venezuela many elements within the military are involved with illegal gold mining and operations involving fuel and drug traffic, they are also behind the smuggling of firearms into prisons. In our jails, convicts are usually in charge, inside they can be armed with grenade launchers and assault rifles and very often have better weapons than the military and the police. There different kingpins handle all sorts of criminal operations ranging from kidnappings, gold mafias, and drug trafficking.
The Orinoco Mining Arc and the Coming Ecologic Catastrophe.
Earlier this year President Nicolas Maduro used emergency economic decree powers to declare 111,843.70 square kilometers of the Venezuelan territory a “strategic development zone” under the project named The Orinoco Mining Arc, which will be open to over 150 national and transnational firms for the extraction of gold, iron, diamonds, and coltan. Among these firms is one named Gold Reserve Inc. which former president Hugo Chávez had expelled from the country 8 years before for ecological reasons. Several Chinese firms are also involved. Estimates indicate about 7000 tons of gold in this region, which would make this the second largest gold reserve in the world.
Over the years the Venezuelan state has transformed into this huge, all-encompassing, inefficient and corrupt machine, which was fuelled when oil prices were high. Now that oil prices have dropped, and pressure is building both internally and externally, the government desperately needs an income stream. The sad thing is that very little of this money will actually benefit the Venezuelan population.
This mega-mining project will affect an area roughly the size of Portugal, involving the Caroní river basin (where the Guri dam is located), a vital source of water and hydroelectric power for the nation. The project will affect the Orinoco river that discharges 36,000 cubic metres per second of water and is one of the largest rivers in the world. The environmental impact of this desperate effort will bring terrible consequences for the indigenous peoples of the Ye’kwana, Sanema, and Pemon tribes that inhabit the Orinoco river basin. This project also violates our constitution, which states that serious studies of environmental impact should be done before approval ahead. Several grass-roots movements have tried protesting with no meaningful change materializing yet.
This is the murder of the land and the people for all to see! This will be an ecological disaster of epic proportions. The vast majority of the Venezuelan and World population isn’t even aware of what is coming.
The situation is indeed dire. Venezuela’s climate is highly dependent on the Amazon rainforest which loses about 0.2 square kilometres per minute due to deforestation. This destruction along with all the legal and illegal mining in the south of the country—polluting rivers and dwindling critical water sources—has modified the climate. These social and environmental tolls have not only a crushing impact on Venezuela but also the whole world. The area comprised between the Amazonian rainforest and the Orinoco River encompasses some of the most important water sources on the planet.
According to Venezuelan geologist Carlos Schubert, the whole area of Northern South America was once a huge desert, he stated that all the vegetation in the region is closely linked to the vitality of the Amazon rainforest.
A lot of this situation surrounding our nation begins to make sense once you realise that roughly within the same territory—the Orinoco river basin—we have the largest oil reserve and the second largest gold reserve in the world, along with many other valuable commodities such as diamonds and coltan. In addition, some of the most important water sources in the whole region are located here. The attack upon our nation has been relentless and spiritually crushing.
And there is this talk all over the media of a new gold-based currency standard—go figure.
If the world keeps heading in this direction, wars will be fought over water instead of oil. The crucial moment is already here, drastic changes need to take place but no government will implement them if we just sit and wait. People need to organise themselves and take action.
During this year we had the worst drought in 47 years, the rainy season has started already and we are “safe” for now, but what will happen once the Orinoco Mining Arc goes ahead? what about the next year? and the one after that? With no electricity and water accessible and all the violence brewing inside the country for the past 20 years, the outlook is grim indeed.
(On the lower left of the image the brown patch indicates deforested areas in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. This has a direct impact on the rains in Venezuela)
When there were high oil prices, all the income we had was not used wisely to diversify production in the country, especially in the area of agriculture. A lot of these resources were wasted away because of corruption and internal political conflict. We have always been heavily dependent on oil. And now we are having food supply problems.
There is some sort of karmic lesson to be learned here. Since the early 20th century, Venezuela became a mining country and in the past, over 90% of our income depended on oil production. For more than a century we have lived by exploiting the Earth, with all the social welfare projects during Chávez financed using oil money. The presence of oil in our land has indeed been a curse upon the Venezuelan people; it has created severe distortions in our governments, our behaviour and our connection to nature.
You cannot heal and feed people with oil and gold. The configuration of the global economy and its sheer savagery, and the world’s political power plays are having a major impact on Venezuela; we are now heading down a path full of irrationality, madness, and destruction. Neither the government nor the opposition is addressing this dire situation.The world is also largely unaware of what is really going on. In order to gain “economic stability,” the status quo proceeds to destroy systems of nature that are crucial for the support of all life. This is pretty much an act of suicide by the nation.
Cultural Lands – Water and Stone
Some friends and I have decided to raise awareness and do something about the present situation. We recently launched an indiegogo.com crowdfunding campaign. The goal is to make several documentary video mapping installations showing the importance of the main sacred places in nature for the support of all life on our planet. The pilot installation will be called “Water and Stone” and will focus on National Parks and endangered water sources in the Venezuelan Andes. The long-term idea is to assemble several video mapping installations in the cities of Venezuela and the world, glorifying mother nature. All of this is an attempt to raise awareness of the trials ahead.
The funding will be mostly used to buy equipment, cover food and travel expenses and finance the post-production of the documentary material.
Please take the time to watch our promotional video, check our IndieGoGo page for more information, and if this cause is close to your heart feel free to donate. You can also help by sharing this article and video and by referring others to our donation page. If you have any questions or want to help, please feel free to contact us. There is strength in union.
Peace and bless you all.
This article first appeared on Stillness in the Storm.