Oblates in Venezuela
Father Javier Alvarez Lodeiro, OMI, Superior of the Oblate mission in Venezuela,
tells of the tensions and the difficulties our Oblates there face each day.
Waiting and discouragement. These two words could define the situation in Venezuela, given the rapid worsening of the situation. In less than a year we are living an enormous crisis, already foreseen, but now present in every home.
Food is scarce. It is difficult to find any, and on top of that the prices are exorbitant. In 2012 a kilo of Cachama (a river fish) cost 20 bolivar. In 2014 it reached 200. At the end of 2015 it was going for 800. Today this typical product of my area costs 2,000 bolivar per kilo. If we consider that the minimum wage is 15,000 bolivar, one can well imagine the situation.
Furthermore, medications for the most common illnesses are lacking, not to mention the more serious cases. Illnesses become worse because of a lack of medicine. Everything is becoming difficult. And the worst is yet to come.
Looting is a forerunner of societal collapse that, thanks be to God, for now has not shown its face much. In some places there has been looting and clashes with the military. The media do not report it, but fellow priests speak of many deaths. They arrested more than 400 people, crowded for days in a shed, without water or a bathroom.
Our communities are found in different areas. In Santa Barbara we live in a rural village and that resolves in part the food problem, thanks to the being in the country. San Cristobal is near places where there are vegetable farms, and from those, in general, you can get something. The situation of the community in Catia is more serious, they lack food and water and they do not have access to the sources of produce. Furthermore, the crime level is greater in the areas near Caracas, considered one of the most violent cities in the world.
The Oblates are committed to being with these people, helping them to overcome the general discouragement and offering them hope and faith in the Lord who walks with His people. We are not yet in a grave situation, although we suffer with the neediest, victims of a great lack of food. But the shadow of a societal explosion that would have unforeseeable consequences is already on the horizon. What happens next will be key to solving the long agony of the country.