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Venezuela’s man-made humanitarian catastrophe is going nowhere

6:50 am, 29th August 2018

A child lying chronically ill from diarrhoea because there aren’t the antibiotics to treat him. Anywhere else he’d likely be well and home by now.

One patient after another needlessly ill. Beds lying idle because there are not the resources to use them.

The parents talking to Alex were heartbreaking. They know their children are desperately ill not because of some natural disaster or famine but because their government has wrecked their economy.

They are living through a man-made humanitarian catastrophe.

They know this because they also know their country is blessed by an abundance of oil. Managed wisely their economy would be one of the world’s more prosperous.

But the opposite has happened.

Venezuela’s socialist leader Hugo Chavez spent and built lavishly on the back of the oil boom, reducing poverty but setting a precedent his successor struggled to match.

When the price of crude dropped Nicolas Maduro printed money to make up for it.

He also scapegoated private enterprise and foreign investors for the country’s failing fortunes, alienating both.

One result has been crippling hyperinflation and a chronic shortage of hard currency, exacerbating shortages in crucial sectors of the economy – particularly its healthcare system.

He will not countenance one obvious remedy, pegging the country’s currency to the dollar, because of his ideological aversion to the idea.

In other countries, democracy would have removed the Maduro government from power. But in Venezuela it has been rigged to prevent that happening.

And the corrupt elite surrounding Mr Maduro has weathered the crisis so far. He has promoted generals and officials whose fate is tied with his, reducing the chances of insiders toppling him in a palace coup.

So despite the multiplying horrors plaguing his people, Mr Maduro is going nowhere.

The chorus of criticism from others in the region is growing, the president of Chile the latest today to warn of a “deep humanitarian crisis as a result of the economic collapse”.

Venezuela’s neighbours fear its problems spilling outside its borders.

And with the country’s crisis deepening and little hope of a change in its fortunes or government there is no sign of a let up in the flow of desperate people trying to flee.