James Forde

Freelance Photographer
   
Children of the Revolution
Location: London, United Kingdom
Nationality: Irish
Biography: James is an Irish freelance photographer based in Dublin, Ireland. For several years, he documented social issues in Latin America. His work is focused on long term documentary projects investigating under-reported socio-political issues. In 2017,... read on
The sun goes down, the lights go off but the reggaeton keeps pumping, it’s just another night in el barrio Petare. All the beers are gone but every once in a while you hear the clink and clank when someone kicks the empty box of small brown bottles. The guys are huddled around smoking Belmont cigarettes and drinking rum in a circle while freestyling about beautiful girls, cell phones, and the current state of the country. Outside, the sound of loud gunfire can be heard, pop pop pop. Down below in el sector de Jose Feliz, local criminals or malandros are in the midst of a gun battle with Venezuelan security forces. The machine-gun fire can be seen shooting across the sky like falling stars only a thousand times faster. It goes on for about an hour. We wonder what started it and how many are dead. 

Hugo Chavez-Frias ex-President of Venezuela clinched the majority victory in the presidential elections in 1998 and roared about his plans of a Bolivarian revolution that would eliminate corruption and clean-up politics through constitutional reform. At one stage he seemed to be achieving his goals while enjoying the highest oil prices in history. He was widely loved but it wasn’t long before things started to go wrong.The situation in Venezuela was far from optimal when Chavez died. Crime rates had steadily been on the rise for several years, issues regarding food scarcity had begun and corruption was most certainly one of the biggest problems. His death in 2013 left a gaping hole in Venezuelan society and that hole has only been filled by misery and despair.

This generation of Venezuelan youth is in extremely vulnerable circumstances. Caracas has been named the most dangerous city on the planet outside of a declared war zone for the last two years running. The entire Venezuelan health care system is on the verge of collapse. Infant mortality has reached new highs, In 2017, Government statistics showed that 4,074 babies in Venezuela died before reaching a year. According to a survey by the Venezuelan organization Fundacion Bengoa about 9.6 million people eat two or fewer meals a day. Venezuela's most pressing issue of food shortages has a direct correlation to many public schools seeing a drop in the percentage of students as they can no longer provide lunch. The issue of hyperinflation is also crippling the country. Data is hard to come by, but some estimates put the country’s inflation rate at more than 4,000 percent. Due to the complete and utter lack of physical money, many people are affected when trying to use the run-down public transport to get to work as buses only accept cash.

The streets have calmed in recent months after last year's political violence saw 130 people, mostly students lose their lives. The causes were mainly due to the impact of tear gas canisters to the chest and temple but some deaths were caused by gunfire from a pro-government militia known as “Colectivios”.On the 30th of July 2017, a referendum for constitutional change went ahead and was accepted although marred by accusations of corruption. As presidential elections are looming in the coming weeks and current President Nicolas Maduro seems to be the only serious running candidate, the likelihood of street protests returning are high unless the next generation welcomes another six years of the Bolivarian revolution. As time goes on Venezuela becomes more and more isolated on the international stage. The country as a whole has a very uncertain future and one thing is for sure that things will most likely get a lot worse before they get better. (Feb 2016-Mar 2018)
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