With more than 5.5 million people fleeing Venezuela in recent years because of lack of opportunities, the Salesians in the South American country are warning that the people don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. “We do not see effective responses against the coronavirus, although the situation was already very complicated before,” warned the religious order. “Moreover, the popula-tion is losing hope. They do not see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
An estimated 87% of the population of 28.5 million is currently living in poverty, and essential goods such as food and medicine are scarce.
“People are coping. If they feel unwell, they take something and carry on, because many do not have access to medical care,” warn Salesian missionaries working in Caracas, speaking about Venezuelan’s inability to address the COVID-19 pandemic or get treatment when symptoms arise.
“The salaries paid are ridiculous,” the letter adds, noting a pensioner receives less than one dollar a month in pension.
“The poorest people cannot afford food and health care,” they add.
The Salesian missionaries in Venezuela have been working for years alongside the most vulnerable population, focusing their efforts in offering education and training to children and young people, while working hand in hand with the bishops’ conference in their efforts of dialogue and national reconciliation.
“In Venezuela, we need to dialogue, we need to find an expression of the popular will,” they wrote in a statement released this week in Spanish news outlet Religion Digital. “Those who should have the last word are the people, the citizens … It is necessary to give security to choose, to speak.”
The warning from the religious community comes after talks between the government of Nicolas Maduro and the opposition were held in Mexico to try to reach an agreement that would allow the country to leave the economic, political and social crises behind.
Venezuelans are expected to elect governors and mayors in November, but opposition forces say the electoral conditions are grossly unfair and have yet to decide whether they will participate. During the conversations held in Mexico, the biggest demand from the opposition was for Maduro to guarantee its participation in a “free and transparent” election process.