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Venezuelan Exodus

The current mass exodus of Venezuelans has generated the largest migration crisis of its kind in recent Latin American history. Over 2.3 million citizens have left Venezuela since 2014 as the country faces shortages of food, medicine and basic goods. Upon seeing the suffering of the Venezuelan people, and the burden this heartbreaking crisis puts upon its neighbors, the NGO’s “Human Rights Watch” and “International Crisis Group” would be best suited for funding by the State Department to work on solving this crisis.

Venezuelans have been fleeing their country for multiple reasons. Under the late Hugo Chávez, a new constitution, paired with numerous elections, placed nearly all the governmental power under the control of the Socialist Party. This concentration of power was only aided by a persistent opposition, which attempted to carry out incompetent and inefficient campaigns and electoral boycotts. Upon the death of Hugo Chávez in 2013, the presidency was taken over by Nicolás Maduro, even less tolerant of dissent than his predecessor. Growing political totalitarianism corresponded with greater dominance over the economy of the country, but government mismanagement, price controls and expropriations have led to a 40% shrinkage of the economy in the past five years alone. Oil had previously accounted for 96% of the country’s export income, as Venezuela is quite rich in oil, and has the largest proven reserves in the world. Arguably, it is this exact wealth that serves as the root of many of the country’s economic problems. Due to its large wealth of oil, Venezuela had never really bothered to produce much else. Venezuela would sell oil to other countries, and with the money it earned, would import the international goods the citizens of Venezuela wanted and needed. However, when the oil price plummeted in 2014, many foreign companies were driven out, production dropped to a 30-year low and Venezuela was faced with a shortage of foreign currency to support its own economy. This shortage, in turn, made it difficult to import goods at the same level it had before, and imported goods gradually became scarcer and scarcer. The resulting financial crisis prompted the government to print more money, leading to hyperinflation and a collapse of the currency. Nicolás Maduro has rejected economic reforms out of loyalty to the Socialist party, and because many government officials are allegedly growing wealthier off the economic disparities, through exchange rate scams, and by selling scarce food on the black market for high prices.

In late 2017, the economy entered a hyper-inflationary spiral, leading prices to rise by over 200 per cent per month. As Venezuela relies critically on imports, the country is now facing acute shortages of food, medicine and many other vital goods. The public health service has completely fallen apart, while the providing of utilities, such as water, electricity and gas is suffering. Malaria, measles, diphtheria and tuberculosis epidemics are currently affecting large parts of the country, despite the eradication of these diseases in the past, and even threaten to spread to Venezuela’s neighbors. With all the problems Venezuela is currently dealing with, The United Nations has stated that Venezuela is on its way to a “crisis point”, comparable to the crisis seen in the Mediterranean in 2015.

Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Watch have both constructed plans in response to Venezuela’s humanitarian emergency. Witnessing the scale and complexity of migration within the region, Human Rights Watch believes that governments should come together to adopt a collective response, including: a region-wide protection regime that would grant all Venezuelans legal status for a set period; a regional mechanism to distribute financial costs, and spread the hosting of Venezuelans fleeing their home country; and joint strategies to address the reasons leading so many Venezuelans to flee their country, including adopting targeted sanctions such as cancelling visas against Venezuelan officials connected with serious human rights abuses, and advertising accountability for human rights violations. International Crisis Group also has a plan in place for the Venezuela’s deepening crisis, including: urgent, additional assistance for countries bearing the burden of the migration, where, in return, those countries should ensure that migrants are eligible for public services and programs of integration; the strengthening of civil society groups providing humanitarian aid within Venezuela and a preparation for a worst-case scenario. These two organizations have formed promising responses dedicated to working on easing this crisis, and should receive sufficient funding by the State Department.