One should not be wonderstruck if many Venezuelans crave to live elsewhere because the economic, political, and overall human rights situation in Venezuela is nothing short of a disaster. What used to be a robust economy not more than a decade ago, has slipped into grave peril inasmuch food has become a source of conflict among the poor families, and women are selling their ‘hairs’ in order to satisfy their families’ appetite. Indeed, the basic provisions, such as toothpaste, milk, or bread, which we all take for granted are what Venezuelans yearn for and beg for. Many people are spending hours just to try to find something to eat from the ‘food waste’. In its heyday, given the colossal oil reserves, Venezuela had reaped a lot of benefits and was able to export 100,000 barrels of oil, per day to Cuba only. Due to relying specifically and excessively on oil, the latter accounted for 95 per cent of the Venezuela’s export.
Hugo Chavez, the former president, with a desire to make the most out of the country’s oil production, sweepingly nationalized the private companies which as an attempt went into a tailspin after the oil prices started to tumble. Hence, the corruption and mismanagement became rampant and the hyperinflation inevitably followed. Worst, all the money was spent, and no money for further production was left. Now the situation at its best is chaotic, and some say, at its worst, worse than the great depression of the United Sates. However, the experience of this economic downfall in practice is more frightening. A cup of tea costs 7000,000 bolivars in Venezuela and people prefer to exchange goods instead of paying or receiving cash. Since this crippling economy and the grave humanitarian crisis are the upshot of political dysfunction and mismanagement of the institutions, many experts believe it is ‘socialism’ at its end in Venezuela.
However, the incumbent President Nicolas Maduro is still selling a ‘message of hope’ to its stalwarts and people of Venezuela, claiming to bring the situation to normal. Amidst the topsy-turvy turn of events in Venezuela, some of the major countries of the so-called ‘United Nations’ are split on what is happening inside Venezuela, and have interpreted the events according to their interests.
The United States, along with those countries which rarely oppose to its consensus apparently want Maduro’s ouster, and a regime change in Venezuela. On the other hand, Russia, China, Cuba and Turkey are supporting the current regime, despite the fact that GDP of the country has shrunk by 53 per cent.
Maduro’s charisma has faded away as 80 per cent of Venezuelan people, if not hate him, want him to step down, which goes in favour of Juan Guaido, who has declared himself the president, claiming the incumbent’s clinch to power as illegitimate, while he also remains as the chief of National Assembly – the de jure legislature for Venezuela. The United States promptly recognized Guaido, and put strict sanctions over the regime of Maduro to guide things in its desired direction. Guaido, with the support of ‘his’ international community promises to bring economy back on track if Maduro leaves hold of power.
The self-proclaimed president, and the incumbent, have exploited each other’s standings. Guaido is hell-bent on pressing Maduro to resign, who as president, has onus of creating economic stability and an overwhelming international and domestic pressure to face; while Guaido sees this worst economic time for Venezuela as a ‘good time’ for him. He has proposed amnesty to military personnel, if they go against Maduro, and is visiting several countries to convince other leaders to make a breakthrough for his coming to power by any means. On the other hand, Maduro, by denouncing the views of Guaido, is warning people about him for being an ‘American pawn’ and reiterating that whatever America is doing is anti-thesis of democracy and that it is trying to sabotage the country by making an attempt for coup d’état. In some way, this clear anti-US narrative is drumming up the opinion of public and military to be on his side, and making a ‘good excuse’ to remain embattled. He has been reluctant in taking aid from the United States – a move which he sees as a step forward for the US intervention – arriving in Colombia’s city of ‘Cucuta’, adjacent to Venezuelans border, where more than three million Venezuelans have already fled including very few of military personnel. However, to a certain extent, the reluctance in allowing the US aid is justifiable by the fact that if latter is really concerned about the misery of people, it would not create an imperative to put sanctions over the regime in the first place.
The ideological struggle between the leaders has overshadowed the actual challenges which have surfaced. There is little talk in the international community on what should be done for the people – miserable for unforeseeable future – than states choosing their ‘favourite’ to see empowered. The countries which support the existing regime, having no restrictions in sending aid, have also remained almost as bystanders. Keeping in view the excessive shortages in country, Russia’s thousands of tons of ‘wheat’ may not suffice; and Turkey’s discounted food prices in Venezuela will help little.
The amount of assistance should transcend from what the local and overseas NGOs and charity organizations are providing. To put it bluntly, why should not China – having the track record of pulling millions of people from the line of poverty – walk the talk and send some hefty amount of aid to Venezuela, instead of merely standing against the forceful sending of the US aid in the country. Cuba should also think ahead of the military help. And if these countries carry some interests in this geo-political environment, they should help Venezuela like ‘an ally in the war’ with a slight difference in sending food, medicine, and other basic commodities instead of military equipment.
The economic and political crises have altered the livelihood of people, and made them hapless in choosing their fate in the current imbroglio. Every other human being there is a victim of hunger and torture. Omar Mijias, a citizen, puts it as, ‘You do not need glasses to see what is right before your eyes.’ Given the minimal actions of international community in witnessing the misfortune of Venezuelan people, it would not be incorrect to say that what happens in the region stays in the region. Extraordinary actions are needed just to delimit the chances of overall collapse of the country. However, taking the nation out of this quagmire may take decades.
Pakistan is not supporting either side but it is noteworthy that the German ambassador to Venezuela was expelled from Caracas because he, like many other EU diplomats, went to receive Guido when he recently returned to Venezuela after defying a travel ban imposed on him by the Supreme Court of that country.
The author, Asif Ali, is a Research Assistant at PIIA.
Patricia Laya, ‘Venezuela’s Collapse’, Bloomberg, 24 January, 2019. https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/venezuela-price-revolution
‘Venezuela crisis: How the political situation escalated’, BBC, 24 January 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36319877
‘Turkey and Venezuela’s ties likely to grow closer in 2019’, 17 January 2019. https://ahvalnews.com/venezuela-turkey/turkey-and-venezuelas-ties-likely-grow-closer-2019-al-jazeera