It is quite an unbelievable phenomena when one realises that the Venezuela crisis has now become one of the largest economic collapses outside of its war in over four decades. Venezuela is now in the midst of a severe political and economic crisis and ripple effects of which are now felt at an alarming rate across the hemisphere. There is severe food, medicine shortages and crime rates have soared high to beyond imagination. About 10% of the population has already fled the country just in the last four years. 460,000 Venezuelans have claimed asylum from political persecution and violence while around 1.8 million have gained other forms of residency. Thousands of innocents have lost access to employment, education and social services. The United Nations has characterised this situation as one of the largest and fastest mass migration in the history of Latin America and hence is now considered a humanitarian crisis. This oil-rich country is now facing fuel shortage and frequent blackouts too. The government says that the shortage is due to the US sanctions while the opposition is of the opinion that this is due to corruption and mismanagement of the funds.
Where do these migrants go?
Approximately 8 out of every 10 migrants choose to be in Latin America or move to the Caribbean. The remaining are migrating to North America or to the EU. Like most cases, these unforeseen circumstances have greatly strained the capability of the host nations to provide basic assistance to the large influx of refugees coming in.
Who is in charge?
The political crisis began with two rival politicians – Mr Maduro and National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó – claiming to be the country’s legitimate leader. Mr Guaidó declared himself interim president in January, arguing that Mr Maduro’s re-election last year had been “illegitimate”. Guaidó’s presidency has been recognised by more than 50 countries including the US, Canada and most countries in Latin America. Although Maduro retains the loyalty of most of the military and important allies such as Russia and China.
The biggest problem facing Venezuelans in their day-to-day lives is hyperinflation. The annual inflation rate reached 1,300,000% in the 12 months to November 2018, according to a study.
How has the international community reacted to this crisis?
Apparently only a fraction of the international assistance is dedicated to this crisis. the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) asked the international community for $738 million to assist migrant-receiving countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2019. By early July, international donors had contributed a scant 23.7% of the requested funds.
According to Pilin Leon, a representative for the coalition of Venezuelan migrants at the Organisation of the American State (OAS), “In Venezuela it isn’t a formally declared war, but there is a situation of violence in the streets of all the cities,” she said. “Our situation is one of displacement that deserves legal recognition as a refugee population.”
Photo Credits: Federico Rios Escobar for The New York Times (A group of Venezuelan Migrants walking through the Andes climb aboard a truck to Colombia).
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