Focus: The Crisis In Venezuela

Venezuela, a country in the northern part of South America, has suffered long periods of economic, social and political difficulties. Due to its political instability and authoritarian regime, Venezuela has been under U.S. sanctions for over fifteen years, and these measures, according to many observers, have caused the country’s economic collapse. The first sanctions were imposed by the Bush administration. The Obama administration then enacted new measures after the 2014 crisis. The real change, however, came under President Donald Trump. The former president imposed extremely harsh sanctions on the South American country, with the aim of causing the collapse of the Maduro government. These included shutting down the U.S. financial system to Venezuela, banning citizens and companies from buying Venezuelan debt, and blocking oil exports by the state-owned company Pvdsa to the United States, Caracas’ main buyer of crude oil. Recent months have seen a gradual rapprochement between the United States and Venezuela after talks between the Maduro executive and the opposition opened in Mexico City. Caracas’s huge oil resources have come back to prominence at a time of crisis brought about by the war in Ukraine, and Washington has decided to authorize Chevron to continue its activities in Venezuela in exchange for Caracas’ commitment to political dialogue.

Modest economic liberalization, according to Venezuelan economist Omar Zambrano heard by the website Foreign Policy, has allegedly given rise to “very strong inequalities” that make the poorer strata of the population increasingly poor. The National Living Conditions Survey, conducted by the Andrés Bello Catholic University and considered an official census due to the collapse of the statistical system, found that Venezuela is the most unequal nation in Latin America where the rich earn 70 times more than the less well-off. Wages, such as that of a university professor making $70 a month, are paid in Venezuelan bolívar, the national currency whose value has plummeted. The number of households with income below the poverty line has declined from 90% in 2021 to 81% in 2022, but hardship due to social causes has increased over the same period of time.

Furthermore, the economic-political instability and the severe humanitarian crisis in Venezuela have forced more than 6 million Venezuelans to leave their country to find refuge abroad since 2014. The world’s second most serious migration crisis after Syria has caused and is causing enormous suffering to the population. The countries that have taken in the most fleeing Venezuelans, making great economic efforts and with modest international assistance, have been those in Latin America. Riccardo Hausmann, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School and director of the Growth Lab, stated that the humanitarian situation in Caracas must be put into context so that the United States can launch effective reception policies. ” Venezuela is a unique case in the world of peacetime economic catastrophe,” Haussman explained, “because the decline in gross domestic product has been almost three times that recorded in the United States during the Great Depression.” The serious problems did not produce change, despite the overwhelming victory of the oppositions in the 2015 elections, because the government changed the rules of the game by stripping the National Assembly of powers and undermining the work of the Supreme Court. The lack of change has thus ignited migration. Global attention to the crisis in Venezuela has faded while inequality and a humanitarian crisis is still taking place, affecting millions of innocent lives everyday.