Many in Venezuela are facing their bleakest Christmas holiday season yet as the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis means many families will be unable to buy presents or even eat.
In the capital of Caracas, the streets are lined with Christmas decorations, although few are feeling the festive cheer. Engineer Armando Holguín, 53, told EFE that the situation “is worse than last year” and even previous years in which “we saw economic activity where people went out to buy.”
This year, many Venezuelans will not be enjoying a traditional Christmas dinner as the country’s hyperinflation crisis has made the cost of food too expensive for ordinary people. Most families will also be unable to carry out the exchange of gifts, with parents instead choosing to prioritize the purchase of food, medicine, and other essential living resources.
As noted by Bloomberg, mass gasoline shortages have also plagued the economy in the run-up to Christmas, meaning many people have been unable to travel across the country for the holiday season.
The Maduro regime has long used the Christmas season to distract from the country’s dire predicament, providing handouts to those most loyal to his regime. In a message on Twitter, Maduro cited the story of Christmas nativity to wish the country a Merry Christmas.
“Today we prepare to celebrate, with faith and joy, the arrival of the child of God,” he wrote. “I express my sincere desires that, in every man and woman of the Fatherland, the hope of a future of peace and prosperity for the whole family is reborn. Merry Christmas Venezuela!”
Hoy nos preparamos para celebrar, con fe y alegría, la llegada del Niño Dios. Expreso mis sinceros deseos para que, en cada hombre y mujer de la Patria, renazca la esperanza de un futuro de paz y prosperidad para toda la familia. ¡Feliz Navidad Venezuela! pic.twitter.com/nyvFsamUsG
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) December 24, 2018
In previous years, the regime has used a range of illegal methods to promote government-sponsored Christmas festivities. Last year, Maduro declared the beginning of a “Christmas season of happiness” on November 1st, 2017, while also providing a 500,000 Bolivar “Baby Jesus Bonus” for government workers, equivalent to around five dollars.
In 2016, authorities seized nearly four million toys from private businesses, while also detaining two company executives on charges of promoting price speculation.