Anger is rising in Venezuela over harsh US sanctions against the government, with the people, who are struggling with deepening economic crisis, hyperinflation and shortages of basic needs, calling the sanctions “suffocating”.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has levied several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela to oust President Nicolas Maduro and replace him with opposition figure Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president earlier this year.
Washington has even confiscated Venezuela’s state oil assets based in the US to channel them to Guaido.
A Venezuelan shopkeeper Manuel Saavedra told AFP about his own experience under the sanctions which he said have been strangling ordinary people.
“They’re suffocating us, ordinary citizens,” said Saavedra, who owns a video game store in the capital Caracas.
Saavedra said that he has been forced to raise prices as products became harder to import since May, when Washington suspended passenger and cargo services between the US and Venezuela.
“I don’t know how long it will last. In any country (sanctions) affect everyone (but) less so those in government,” he added.
In the latest move, Washington said it decided to suspend all commercial and cargo flights between the United States and Venezuela. The measure seriously impacted millions of Venezuelans who rely on airline courier services from the US to obtain scarce medication, spare parts and food.
A senior fellow specializing in Venezuela at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) think-tank also said the sanctions are pressing ordinary people rather than the government.
“The oil sanctions will drive the population into further poverty, hunger and tragedy and weaken them vis-a-vis the Maduro government and allow the latter to continue in power,” he told AFP back in April.
The oil-rich country is currently refining only 100,000 barrels a day, half its demand, meaning it is forced to import the rest.
This has sparked fuel shortages and led to fuel queues that can last up to two days in some remote regions.
“There shouldn’t be petrol rationing in an oil-rich country … this is backwardness,” said Ivan Herrera as he waited for hours at a queue in the western city of Barquisimeto.
Venezuelans are also suffering from a lack of basic necessities under US sanctions.
According to the United Nations figures, a quarter of Venezuela’s 30-million-strong population is in need of humanitarian aid.
At least 3.3 million people have fled the country since the end of 2015, the figures show.
The Maduro government launched an emergency food program in 2016 in response to a severe shortage of food across the nation, but the US has even prepared sanctions to destroy the plan, the president said last month.
Under the program, known by its Spanish acronym as CLAP, the government sells boxes of food that include products such as rice, pasta, oil and powdered milk at subsidized prices.
Reports say the US is set to unveil measures against the aid program within the next 90 days.