Amnesty International says a new decree in Venezuela that says the government can make any of its citizens farm the country’s fields in order to combat its current, punishing food crisis “effectively amounts to forced labour.”
“The decree, officially published earlier this week, establishes that people working in public and private companies can be called upon to join state-sponsored organizations specialized in the production of food,” Amnesty International reported.
“They will be made to work in the new companies temporarily for a minimum of 60 days after which their ‘contracts’ will be automatically renewed for an extra 60-day period or they will be allowed to go back to their original jobs.”
Venezuela’s economy has been in a tailspin since 2014, a year after the death of the architect of the country’s decade-plus-long socialist revolution, Hugo Chavez.
His successor, Nicolas Maduro, then took over only to face a swift and brutal decline, turning Venezuela into what economist Steve Hanke calls “the most miserable” country in the world. Aside from a food shortage, the country is also experiencing almost 300% inflation, frequent and violent mass protests, a massive public health crisis, and intense political repression.
The historically low price of oil, the country’s main export, has only made the situation more dire. Production has tanked. Venezuela has billions of debt payments for its state oil company, PDVSA, due this fall, and analysts wonder if it will be able to make those payments.
Meanwhile, the people are clamoring for snap elections and the release of political prisoners. The Organization of American States has called for the same.
“In 16 years, they have never been more unified on a group of principles, one being the referendum,” Brian Dean of ACG Analytics told Business Insider recently. “Any credible opposition candidate will win if there are free and fair elections.”
That means the government, which is already ruling in a state of emergency decree, will only continue to dig in its heels before this is all said and done.