Imagine waking up and wondering if you were going to be able to eat three meals in a day. Imagine a life where being robbed on the street was routine. For Venezuelan student Jose Lezama, that situation has become a reality.
Born and raised in Venezuela, described by many media sources as the most dangerous country in the world, Lezama has recently been personally affected by the problems currently facing the country: A skyrocketing homicide rate (90 murders per 100,000 residents) is problem number one. Kidnapping and robbery are also common.
“I personally have been robbed about eight times or something,” Lezama said. “It is so normal that I don’t even remember if there were more times I was robbed.”
Lezama’s personal experience is only part of a bigger story. Some Hesston students only learned about a few weeks ago, when in chapel campus pastor Todd Lehman asked for thoughts and prayers for those in Venezuela.
But what exactly is happening in this country and how has the situation escalated so quickly?
News sources describe violent crime, political unrest and even inflation as on the rise in the last couple of years. As the country succumbs to these issues, its citizens have to fight harder to stay alive. According to Lezama, that fight includes food shortages, which have recently become an even bigger of issue.
“Shortages started two to three years ago,” he said. “However the last six months they have gotten worse. It got to the point that there were some days when all I had was breakfast.”
According to BBC news, the lack of food has been caused by a drastic drop in oil earnings. Venezuela’s economy is highly dependent on imports, but without the oil money they can no longer afford enough imports to feed everyone.
Adding to the complex tapestry of disorder, Lezama says, is the normalization of corruption.
“Corruption is all over,” he said. “You can find it in the supermarket lines where you pay the guard to be the first in line, you can also find it in the jails where you pay to get away with murder. It has become such a normal thing that people just don’t care anymore.”
Through all this turmoil Lezama emphasizes his love for Venezuela.
“I just personally want to share that that even though Venezuelans always say bad things about the country, it is still a beautiful country.” he said. “I would choose being born there over and over again. The government is bad but the country, people, and everything else is just beautiful.”