Venezuelan aid rally in Cambridge
The Venezuelan Community in Cambridge gathered at Guildhall on Saturday, February 22, to demand that the country’s government allows in humanitarian aid.
Rosemary Dahlqvist, spokesperson for the organisation, said: “Something is going wrong when 3.4 million people have left the country. It’s the biggest refugee crisis since the Syrian war.”
Power cuts, hyperinflation, crime epidemics, shortage of food and drink – 75 per cent of Venezuelans have lost 19lbs since the crisis began – have been ongoing for many months. Rosemary’s mother, who has had breast cancer, “hasn’t had her medicines from hospital for two years”. Her medication is sent from abroad – an increasingly fraught option that doesn't always work.
"It's a fight against the clock to make sure you get the medicines," says Rosemary, "then send them over and hope your family gets them in time. Purchasing medication abroad and sending over to Venezuela is an option that not many can afford; some people have had their medicine shipping being detained for no reason in costoms, so one never knows whether your family will receive their medicines at all."
“Most of the hospital equipment, such as dialysis machines, is broken and there are power cuts throughout the day,” Rosemary adds of the situation. “People are just starting to see the magnitude of the crisis. Five thousand people are leaving the country every day. Most stay in Columbia and now they're in crisis - obviously they are not ready for an influx of this magnitude."
The crisis has come to a head following last year's election which has stalled the country's political activity. Establishing who is the legitimate president of Venezuela became more difficult on January 10, when the opposition-majority National Assembly declared that incumbent Nicolás Maduro's 2018 re-election was invalid and declared its president, Juan Guaidó, to be acting president of the nation.
"Once Maduro leaves there will be fresh elections - hopefully this year,” Rosemary says of the impasse. "Legally the president is Juan Guaidó. If we followed the constitution he would be in power." Of the military backing for Maduro she says: "For them to give up their position of power will take some time. Their loyalty should be to the Venezuelan people, not to the authorities."
Rosemary, a trained journalist and communications officer, has been in the UK for 13 years, seven of them in Cambridge where she lives with her daughter, Carmen.
"Most of us live here," she says of the 70-strong Venezuela Community in Cambridge. "It's been wonderful to have the support of people round the world, and more than 50 countries, but more important now is getting the humanitarian aid through. In the last three months 5,000 people died in just two hospitals."
The first aid caravan was blocked at the Columbian border at the border in late February. International pressure continues in a bid to deliver essential food and medicine to Venezuela.