#SOSVenezuela: A Venezuelan's Point of View

Many of you know that something big is happening in Venezuela: students are out on the streets protesting and some of them have been killed because of it; Venezuelans all over the world have been asking for the world’s attention and help. But can you really say you know what's going on?  As a Venezuelan, I'll give you some insight into what my family has been going through for the past few years. Things have slowly been getting worse — and I may be safer and a bit more protected in Puerto Rico, but I have not forgotten about Venezuela, and I never will.

The number one issue is violence. With 24,763 homicides in 2013 alone and around 70 people killed in Caracas every week, Venezuela has earned a top spot as one of the most violent countries in the world.  Caracas holds the third spot on the world's deadliest cities, while the city of Barquisimeto is in ninth place. The worst part? Over 90% of these murders are never investigated, and those responsible go unpunished.

Second, there is a serious shortage of food and other staples. In such a rich country that produced oil, rice, coffee and other goods, food scarcity should be the least of their worries.  With the government seizing the land and controlling production, people have left the fields and production has ceased; even oil production has diminished. When people aren't searching around for food or toilet paper in supermarkets, they are making never-ending lines to get a limited and rationed quantity of the products they need to live. And to make matters worse, the sick and elderly have little to no access to their medicines, risking their lives.

According to Transparency International, Venezuela is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. (In the image above, the deeper the red, the more highly corrupt a country is.) With its government tightly controlling all aspects of economy like currency exchange, imports, exports and prices, many enterprises have gone bankrupt and the inflation rate has risen to 56%.

Over the course of the protests, unarmed students and other protesters have been shot and killed by the very same people who swore to protect them. Students have been imprisoned, beaten and tortured for holding posters denouncing Venezuela's brutal government; many are missing and we can only hope that they're still alive.  Reporters whom have tried to cover the protests have been beaten or expelled by the government.  Venezuelans have resorted to using social networks like Twitter and Zello to spread information, but even the government has tried to block those apps as well. On a related note, the government has blocked any outgoing transmission of that denounces the violence in Venezuela. In the image below, you can see Venezuelan opposition leader, Leopoldo López, being imprisoned for standing up against the corrupt government.

This is not just about removing an illegitimate president from power, but about recovering what Venezuela has lost: its freedom. It's about being able to go into a supermarket and having a hard time choosing what kind of rice we want to buy, which toilet paper is the cheapest and what cookies we want to have for dessert.  This is about Venezuelans being able to go out on the streets and not worry about being mugged, kidnapped, beaten or murdered. This is about having a government listening to its people, instead of quieting them. This is about having your troops fight for you, instead of stabbing your back. This is about all the Venezuelans in foreign countries being able to live in peace knowing that their families are safe; this is about us wanting to go back to our home after living life away from the family that we should have had.