A Case Of Gross Political Misconduct and Human Endangerment
Corruption is the ultimate scourge of any failed state, and no case is more severe than experienced in some parts of Latin America. There is a clear paradigm of turmoil here and the current waves of uprisings in the region reflects these injustices as millions of Latin American citizens are up in arms against their failing governments. From Chile and Bolivia, across to Peru and up to Mexico, economic stagnation and political turmoil are recurring themes as the region gears up for a ‘second lost decade’ (Stott, 2019). However, no strife in this string of afflictions is more apparent than in Venezuela.
Largely forming the epicentre of the crisis that is ravaging across Latin America by displacing vast sums of its population, Venezuela as the state is no longer able to support itself and society has disintegrated. “Jobs in Venezuela have all but disappeared, and with violence on the rise and reliable access to food, healthcare and medicine deteriorating, more than 3 million Venezuelans have left since 2015” (Mercy Corps, 2019). Despite this, there has been very little urgency regarding the response.
This article will dissect the calamity with the intention of alerting those who may be previously unaware. Yet with so many at risk, there is an urgent need for not only attention, but action.
Second Only to Syria
Once held as the region’s oldest and most successful democracy, complete with a growing middle class and strong welfare system (Neím and Toro, 2017), contemporary Venezuela now stands as a harbinger of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. According to Arnson: “Worldwide, it is now second only to that of Syria. A staggering four million Venezuelans have fled their homeland, the majority since 2015. This number constitutes more than 12 percent of the country’s total population.” (2019) Yet in spite of the vastness of the crisis, it has received relatively little media attention and even less international aid, leaving the surrounding Latin American and Caribbean states’ (regardless of their own humanitarian issues) to bear the brunt of the impact.
While their welfare systems are already highly overworked, the regional aid has been monumental in keeping the crisis from becoming an absolute disaster. Columbia for instance has been issuing temporary residential and work permits for Venezuelan refugees. As of June, a reported 1.2 million of these displaced persons had sought refuge in the state, and it has largely obliged (UNFPA, 2019). This is generosity is partially a means of repaying Venezuelans for their state’s assistance during Colombia’s own time of need when it was ravaged by internal conflict and millions of Columbians sought refuge in Venezuela. The international community should take note of such mutual assistance. The international system is ever dynamic, what’s up can come down and what goes around comes around. Nevertheless, what started as a great repayment has now put enormous pressure on the Columbian state and there is growing unease amongst Columbians.
The Curse of Chávez
Inspired by the states former president, Hugo Chávez, Chavism is a specific form of socialism under which the dogma of Venezuela’s current de facto dictator, Mr Maduro, falls. One cannot write off an entire ideology in one fell swoop, there are many different forms of socialism and every case is different. But there is an all-defining rule that applies: absolute power corrupts absolutely. In the case of the Chavista Regime this meant gutting the effective parts of the Venezuelan state and gifting them to those most loyal to the regime (O’Brian, 2019). Such an economic model was doomed and the Chavistas attempted to prop up the inefficient state they had created with oil revenues. When that failed, they tried to print their way out of the hole with a radical stimulus of quantitative easing. The current condition of Venezuela is the legacy of this idiocy alongside poor economic conditions. What the state really needs is smart reform and good management but due to the current political and economic incompetence, there is no end in sight.
My Plea For International Action
With so many people in need, it is easy to see why there has been such little support here: the waiting list for states that require urgent humanitarian assistance is long. This a truly evil fact when its human lives at stake, however. For such a crisis, the current level of aid is appalling. “In the case of Venezuela, the Organization of American States estimates the number to be a scant $100 to $200 per individual” (Arnson, 2019). That’s around 20 times lower per person when compared with crises of a similar magnitude. As noted by the Financial Times: “The UN has set a target of $1.35bn needed for its Venezuelan refugee and migrant response plan in 2020” (2020). It is in everyone’s interest to meet this goal as the situation is quickly becoming more than just a regional issue. Nevertheless, with the world focused on the US/Iran tensions right now it is highly likely that Latin America remains out of the limelight.
It is my most sincere hope that the condition stabilizes and Latin America does not descend into another lost decade. Any form of action is urgently needed and the longer we as a global society wait, the more lives are lost, people are displaced and reconstruction efforts amplify. Anything we can offer to help will be greatly appreciated somewhere. After all, global change begins with the individual and, once sown, the seed of development will flourish with proper care. As a late hero of mine said: Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth – Muhammad Ali.
Arnson, Cynthia J., (2019)‘The Venezuelan Refugee Crisis Is Not Just a Regional Problem’, Foreigm Affairs. Available at: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/venezuela/2019-07-26/venezuelan-refugee-crisis-not-just-regional-problem?fa_anthology=1125088 (Accessed 6th January 2020).
Naím, M. and Toro, F. (2018) ‘Venezuela’s Suicide: Lessons From a Failed State’, Foreign Affairs. Available at: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/south-america/2018-10-15/venezuelas-suicide?fa_anthology=1125088 (Accessed: 5th January 2020).
O’Brian, M. (2019) ‘Venezuela is the biggest economic disaster in modern history’, Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/02/01/venezuela-is-biggest-economic-disaster-modern-history/ (Accessed: 6th January 2020).
Stott, M. (2019) Latin America faces a second ‘lost decade’, Financial Times. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/07f0e09e-0795-11ea-9afa-d9e2401fa7ca (Accessed: 5th January 2020)
The Editorial Board. (2020) ‘Venezuela’s refugee crisis needs a proper response’, Financial Times. Available at : https://www.ft.com/content/af000cac-2d51-11ea-bc77-65e4aa615551 (Accessed: 6th January 2020).
United Nations Population Fund. (2019) Dignity and strength: Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Colombia. Available at: https://www.unfpa.org/news/dignity-and-strength-venezuelan-refugees-and-migrants-colombia (Accessed: 6th January 2020).