According to Luis Almagro, “there is no worse sanction that can be applied to the Venezuelan people than six more years of the Maduro regime”
The shortage of food, medicine, and other basic essentials in Venezuela continues to drive people out of the country in record numbers. According to Universidad Central de Venezuela, it is estimated that 500,000 people have fled since last year, and over 2 million since 1998. Furthermore, while many refugees have managed to recuperate in other parts of the region, many neighboring countries are struggling to withstand the burden of such a high influx of new residents.
President Nicolás Maduro took office in 2013 as Hugo Chavez’s protégée, implementing a socialist vision that saw a government takeover of much of the country’s private industry. Economic mishandling and corruption, especially within Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. — the country’s public oil company — have caused unprecedented hyperinflation as high 4,500 percent.
Maduro has blamed the crisis on an international economic war against socialism, pointing the finger most recently at sanctions issued by the United States, Canada, and the European Union last year. Citing his dislike of interventionism, Maduro has refused offers of humanitarian aid. As a result, the country is experiencing shortage and, consequently, widespread problems with malnutrition.
“There is no worse sanction that can be applied to the Venezuelan people than six more years of the Maduro regime,” Luis Almagro, Head of the Organization of American States, said this month while discussing upcoming presidential elections. He said elections, which would most likely be rigged, will only worsen the crisis and drive even more people out of the country.
What are South American Countries doing?
Officials in Brazil announced this week that they are considering putting a pause on the land entry of Venezuelan refugees, until they can get a better sense of who has arrived and how many. Currently, in accordance to Migration Policy Institute, approximately 40,000 Venezuelans live in the state of Roraima.
“We have a very serious problem that is only going to get worse,” Boa Vista Mayor Teresa Surita, the capital of Roraima, said.
Peru has instituted a temporary refugee permit targeted at Venezuelans, allowing them to work or study for up to one year. The country accepted an estimated 11,000 people from Venezuela into the program last year.
Other refugees have met a worse fate, as many try and fail to reach Caribbean islands like Curacao by makeshift boat. Local media has reported as many as 12,000 Venezuelan refugees may be living on the islands, despite the fact that the success rate in making it from one coast to the other is very small. Travelers are reportedly caught by Venezuelan officials and then arrested. Other times, travelers die before arriving.
Many families cross the western border to Colombia each day to buy food, and then return to Venezuela in the evening. However, Universidad de Venezuela reported that 300,000 or more have come looking to set up a new life in the country, and it has caused problems for local municipalities. In Cúcuta, refugees have begun setting up makeshift shelter towns because there is a shortage of housing.
Mauricio Franco, Cúcuta’s Secretary of Government, has asked for federal assistance in providing refugees adequate resources. Right now, officials there simply do not have the ability to help as much as they hope to. This week, they had to evict 200 Venezuelans from a soccer field, where they had set up tents and other makeshift homes.
“We left with the dream of working and escaping Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship in Venezuela, but unfortunately they’re sending us back,” Jesus Millan told Reuters as he was being escorted off the field.
LatinAmerican Post | Max Radwin
Copy edited by Marcela Peñaloza