This week saw an intensification of problems we’ve basically been having for months.
Tensions between France and Italy over the latter’s support for gilet jaunes escalated when France recalled their ambassador from Rome – something that hasn’t happened since World War II. Contrastingly, tensions between France and Germany over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline could be worked out, with Germany likely to become a liability for European energy security considering its crackling relations with an unpredictable President Putin. Theresa May wants to prevent hard borders with Ireland following Brexit, while also wanting to prevent a delay in the process, keeping the 29th of March as the official date where the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Leaders in Brussels, however, deny any opportunity for May to renegotiate the deal that had been rejected in Parliament, making things look grim as usual for her.
But let’s turn our attention to somewhere outside of Europe: Venezuela. Venezuela has been in a deep crisis for the past years, with hyperinflation leading to commodity prices nobody can afford, and food and medicine shortages leading to people die in the streets. Many Venezuelans reported eating garbage in order to survive. Some even broke into zoos to eat the starved animals inside. Over one million children no longer go to school due to starvation and lack of public services. Crime is skyrocketing. The situation resembles a country in civil war or hit by a natural catastrophe, and yet, this crisis with unprecedented food shortage is entirely man-made. And what is even worse, help is not allowed in.
Leadership in Venezuela under President Maduro clearly lost control over the country and the 2018 elections were criticised as fraudulent by many surrounding and European countries. Two weeks ago, President of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó swore in as interim President until new elections took place, which was recognised by more than 50 countries. And yet, Maduro continues to deny his failure and blocks any attempts from Guaidó’s side to improve the situation – including blocking aid transport. Guaidó had reported that if no help was allowed in, this would risk the lives of 300.000 Venezuelans suffering from starvation and dehydration. Trucks intended to bring food and medicine into the country were however stopped at the border just two days ago under Maduro’s orders.
He claims that the United States had invented the story of a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela to find an excuse to intervene and take over the country. Moreover, he said that Venezuelans would lose their “dignity” if help was allowed in. Dignity? Seriously? He would let hundreds of thousands of people die in the streets because he is too self-absorbed to admit his failures, to stubborn to see the disaster he stirred the country into, too proud to accept help and then reflects his feelings on the whole of the population? He must have been locked into a room full of food and pictures of Venezuela from ten years ago to make that statement.
My reaction to these developments can be best visualised with my favourite news story of the week: the invention of the f*** you clap. This Tuesday at Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, Nancy Pelosi, new speaker of the House of Representatives, gave a standing ovation and applauded her arch-nemesis, the President, in the most sarcastic way possible, leading to a wave of new gifs and memes across the internet. And it turned into the most iconic way to tell someone – without using words or forgetting your manners – to shove it. And with that, we can give a round of applause to leaders who blindly stir their countries into a mess, whether its Donald Trump, Theresa May – or this week most of all, Nicolás Maduro.
All the best, Greta