It's truly astonishing to see how run-down, degraded and desperate life in Venezuela has become. Two decades ago it was a cosmopolitan, wealthy society by Latin American standards, relatively carefree and prosperous. Today, it's a dystopian nightmare.
Bloomberg has published a series of reports on life in Caracas, the country's capital city. All of them are worth reading, if only to illustrate how so much that we take for granted can be lost in a short time through mismanagement, envy and fear. The latest looks at the street children of Caracas.
Andrea is 9. Her father is dead. Her mother is pregnant, jobless and many miles away in a small town south of Caracas called Yare. Andrea and her cousins—Disbeth, 12, Jocelyn, 11, and Andres and Jose, both 8—come in by bus and subway on Fridays, sleeping for two or three nights on the streets of one of the world’s most treacherous cities. Their weekend jobs are to beg for food for themselves, abating the hunger that dogs them during the week, and for money to bring back to their struggling families. Sometimes Andrea manages to collect as much as 50 bolivars.
Street children have long been a cause for concern in Venezuela. Their numbers have ebbed and flowed with the economy, but it has never before been like this—never before with so many young kids, on their own, all over the city.
They are seemingly everywhere, weighing vegetables at market stands, carrying crates of sodas into diners, cleaning parked cars, begging outside grocery stores, waved away from bars and restaurants where security guards don’t want them bothering the clientele. Many toil as “cloreros,” hawking diluted bleach, or cloro, poured into water jugs.
Sometimes barefoot, often emaciated, many roam in groups for protection, inviting sideways glances and purse clutching. Mostly, though, they’re treated with compassion, as nearly all Caraquenos can see themselves reflected in their misery.
There's more at the link.
The worst tragedy is, these kids have been denied the food and nourishment they need for their brains to develop properly. Not only are they uneducated, but if they haven't had enough food during their physically formative years, they won't be capable of learning. I've seen that countless times in African cities. Venezuela isn't as far gone as some parts of Africa - at least, not yet . . . but if this continues, it will be, and very soon, too.
When you look around at your kids or grandkids, or the children in your neighborhood in the USA, even the poorest and most crime-ridden of them, realize that you're looking at kids in paradise compared to those who live in most of the rest of the world. First World societies have very little idea of just how awful conditions can be elsewhere for the youngest and most vulnerable members of society.
Say a prayer for them this Christmas, and try to do something to help, no matter how small. It matters.