Venezuela: 'Guaido and Maduro aren't going to feed my children'

As political crisis escalates, many Venezuelans say just having a job and putting food on the table remains top priority

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    A man walks past graffiti on the wall of a vacant lot that reads in Spanish, "Get out Maduro" [Fernando Llano/AP Photo]
    A man walks past graffiti on the wall of a vacant lot that reads in Spanish, "Get out Maduro" [Fernando Llano/AP Photo]

    Caracas, Venezuela - Maria Rios woke up early on Thursday morning to make her monthly trip to the Venezuelan capital Caracas. There, she joined dozens of elderly Venezuelans who'd lined up outside banks to receive their monthly pension from the government.

    Rios lives in the region of Los Valles del Tuy, about 70km from Caracas, but she prefers to make the two-hour trip to guarantee she will receive her money.

    "Here, the banks always have money. There, we never know," she told Al Jazeera.

    Like many of those in line, Rios didn't go to the demonstration the day before to support opposition leader Juan Guaido, who swore himself in as interim president after the opposition-controlled National Assembly declared President Nicolas Maduro illegitimate. Nor did she attend rallies supporting Maduro, who rejected Guaido's declaration.

    "I don't care if the president is Maduro or Guaido," she said. "I just know that with the money the bank will give me today, I will only be able to buy a kilo of cheese and another of rice, half of what I would have bought last week."

    For many, having enough money to buy food or other supplies is out of reach due to hyperinflation. The International Monetary Fund predicts the inflation rate will reach 10 million percent this year, and nearly 90 percent of Venezuelans live in poverty. 

    The opposition blames the crisis on Maduro's policies, accusing him of leading a "dictatorship". Maduro accuses the United States of waging an "economic war" on Venezuela to push him out of power.

    The US and several other countries swiftly recognised Guaido as president, prompting Maduro to sever diplomatic ties with Washington. Turkey, Russia and China came to Maduro's defence.

    But as political tensions continue to escalate, little has changed for most across the country: prices are still too high and wages are still low for many to make ends meet.

    'Everything remains the same'

    On the pavement in front of the long line of people waiting to enter a bank in downtown Caracus, two cigarette sellers exchanged banter. 

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    "What are you going to do now with your 'Carnet de la patria?', asked one man, referring to the identification card given to Venezuelans by Maduro's government to access social services.

    The other said, "I didn't vote for Guaido, no one voted for him for president, just [US President Donald Trump]. He's nothing".

    Listening nearby, another street vendor shook her head and said, "If I don't work, no Maduro or Guaido is going to feed my children."

    Although Wednesday's rallies drew thousands into the streets, with many throwing their support behind Maduro and others calling for change, most people are still mostly just concerned with having a job and feeding their families.

    A woman walks past a graffiti depicting late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Maduro and a legend reading "down with Trump" in Caracas [Yuri Cortez/AFP] 

    Still, there are many visible signs that the political tensions are escalating. On Wednesday, there continued to be a heavy military presence and anti-riot groups in some areas of the capital where protests descended into clashes the night before, leaving behind burnt cars and vandalised storefronts. But many passed by without paying much attention. 

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    Outside of the capital, the situation is more or less the same. In San Cristobal, a border city with Colombia, which has suffered from severe fuel shortages, impacting public transportation, many went about their normal routine but also factored in protests that are expected to continue in the evenings.

    "We work while we can, early in the day, because in the afternoon if the protest begins, we have to close and go home", said Elena Meza who own a cheese shop in the city.

    In Maturin, an oil city in the east of the country, where protests turned violent on Wednesday night, many also went about their normal routine on Thursday, saying not much had changed.

    "I was so happy yesterday, full of hope," Ana Lopez told Al Jazeera.

    "Today everything remains the same," the 32-year-old hotel worker said. "That lowers your spirits."

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News