STANDING on the brink of collapse, Venezuela is in the grip of a hyperinflation economic catastrophe – and is becoming one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
Here is what you need to know about the Venezuelan president how the crisis in the South American country has developed.
Who is Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro?
Nicolas Maduro took power as president in 2013.
He was born on November 23, 1962.
He is married to Cilia Flores, a lawyer and politician who replaced Maduro as President of the National Assembly in August 2006, when he resigned to become Minister of Foreign Affairs under President Hugo Chavez.
He has one son from a previous marriage and three step-children from his wife’s first marriage.
The 55-year-old is a former bus driver and trade union leader.
Why is there such criticism of his regime?
Maduro has seen his country plunge into disarray and the United States has imposed sanctions, labelling him a “dictator”.
Maduro’s government’s answer to the crisis, which has escalated since his mentor’s death, has been simply to print more money.
Venezuela now prints four times more cash than it collects from sales and all taxes, including VAT and income tax.
Nationalised farms have seen yields fall every year, with almost two thirds of Venezuelans have reported weight loss as a result of food shortages.
Maduro came under fire earlier this year for dining out on expensive steak at Salt Bae’s luxury restaurant in Turkey.
Red meat is especially rare in Venezuela, where millions go hungry every day and 64 per cent of the people have reported losing an average of 11kg (24lbs) because there’s not enough to eat.
Maduro’s response to open revolt on the streets has been to shut opposition parties out of government.
However his crackdown on protests in 2017 failed to stop daily unrest on the streets of Caracas resulting in 120 deaths in just four months.
The controversial president was reelected earlier this year in an election that Boris Johnson described as “obviously rigged“.
What was the drone assassination attempt?
During a live event in August 2018, the head of state dodged a “drone assassination attempt“.
The president was mid-speech at a military parade in Caracas when two blasts rang out above his podium, startling the head of state and his wife Cilia Flores.
Both were suddenly swamped with security personnel who shielded them with bulletproof padding.
Hundreds of soldiers broke ranks and sprinted for cover as explosions went off last night. Seven soldiers were hurt.
Maduro claims he saw a “flying device” explode before his eyes before instantly blaming “ultra-right” opponents.
But questions have been raised about whether the incident was faked after Maduro quickly blamed political opponents and media footage of the event suddenly cut out.
How has the crisis in Venezuela developed and what is the current inflation rate?
The Venezuelan capital, Caracas, has become one of the most dangerous and violent cities on Earth.
A survey published in 2016 found there were 120 murders per 100,000 residents during 2015.
The US Bureau of Diplomatic Security has warned the deterioration in the quality of life for Venezuelans over 2017 has resulted in a dire situation in which over 73 citizens die a violent death every day.
Unofficial statistics indicate that most categories of crime increased in 2017 with the majority of Caracas’ crime and violence remains attributed to mobile street gangs and organised crime groups.
Just 20 years ago, Venezuela — which has the world’s largest crude oil reserves — was one of the richest countries on Earth.
Revolutionary socialist Hugo Chavez swept to power in 1998, promising to share out the nation’s wealth.
Slum dwellers were housed in new tower block apartments, deliberately sited in well-to-do areas, and Chavez gave away £640billion in welfare handouts, increasing the national debt five-fold.
But the collapse of oil prices has now triggered a total economic meltdown.
Due to huge state subsidies, a full tank of petrol is around 5p — 20 times less than a bottle of water — but production is now so inefficient that the country is importing oil.
A worker on the £25-a-month minimum wage must now work for two weeks to afford a bag of rice.
And now, Venezuela is in the grip of a hyperinflation economic catastrophe after 19 years of successive socialist governments have failed to control the cost of basic goods, which are now doubling in price on average every 26 days.
The Sun Online reported how many people can’t afford basic items like food and medicine, with child malnutrition at record levels in the country.
The troubled nation stands on the brink of collapse with spiralling inflation, which could hit one million per cent by the end of the year, as the economic crisis deepens.
More than two million people have fled the country in the last four years.
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