Once Latin America’s wealthiest country and longest-running democracy – plus, the owner of the world’s largest proven oil reserves – Venezuela is now in deep, deep trouble.
Thanks to corruption, cronyism, dreadful policies, and significant economic mismanagement by the president of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez, Venezuela is now a failed state.
Falling oil production, decrepit infrastructure (think sporadic water, electricity, and cellphone coverage), failing banking systems, hyperinflation, and U.S. sanctions have intensified the crisis, causing an estimated five million Venezuelans to flee their country.
From a humanitarian perspective, the Maduro regime has violated human rights on a colossal scale, leaving hundreds of anti-Maduro peaceful protestors dead. Living standards and the health care system have collapsed, medicine is scarce, infant mortality is high, malnutrition is rampant, and diseases like measles, diphtheria, malaria and tuberculosis are resurgent.
Although Cuba, China, Russia and Turkey remain hard-core Maduro defenders, the United States and over fifty other governments tried hard to remove Maduro from office by recognizing a young opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela – an effort that included a surprise appearance by Guaidó at Donald Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address. However, the Venezuelan police, military, and courts all continued to recognize Maduro as the country’s rightful leader, which undermined the opposition effort.
Once energized and active, it now appears the opposition movement has fallen apart, hastened by the defection of high-profile opposition leaders like Henrique Capriles, a two-time presidential candidate “defeated” by Maduro under suspicious circumstances. After Maduro agreed to drop all charges against 110 imprisoned opposition politicians, Capriles turned on Juan Guaidó and accused him of “role-playing at being president on the Internet.”
The Trump administration tried other tactics to remove Maduro. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Maduro and fourteen other senior Venezuelan officials on charges of narco-terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and other criminal charges, saying that “Maduro and other high ranking Venezuelan officials allegedly partnered with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) to use cocaine as a weapon to ‘flood’ the United States.”
For now, Maduro is here to stay for a while because, despite the fact that his authoritarian regime agreed to allow international observers from the European Union to oversee future elections, rigged elections in Venezuela will surely continue.
It is critical that the international community join together and help these people. Ninety-six percent of Venezuelans live under the poverty line, and U.S. sanctions have helped to devastate their lives.
Obviously, we can’t give money directly to the corrupt Venezuelan government, but we can continue our financial support of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan, which is severely underfunded.
Additionally, the United States and our allies should lead the charge to bring human rights abusers within the Maduro regime before the International Criminal Court for committing crimes against humanity.