Grey Reames & Jake Cash
Nicolás Maduro took over as president of Venezuela in 2013 following the death of socialist leader Hugo Chávez. Since taking over, hyperinflation, food shortages, and thinning natural resources have plagued the country. By the end of the year, Venezuela’s economy will be half of the size it was in 2013. This year alone the economy will shrink 15%.
Many Venezuelans are fleeing as the situation in the country has worsened. 3 million Venezuelans have fled in the last two decades, representing 1/10th of the countries population. However, in the last two years, an estimated 1.2 million individuals have fled. The emigration is likely to continue as confidence in the country continues to lack. A recent survey conducted by Gallup showed that 40% of the remaining population hopes to flee the country. Furthermore, 53% of Venezuelans between the ages 15 – 29 want to move away permanently.
The influx of migrants from the country has generated regulation and response from neighboring countries. Colombia, where a population of 550,000 Venezuelans lived at the end of 2017 (62% increase year-over-year), said it would stop issuing the 1.5 million border-crossing cards to Venezuelans as it seeks to regulate the masses of people moving across its borders. Both Colombia and Brazil have increased military personnel at their borders as well.
Despite being welcoming to their Venezuelan neighbors, Colombia has started seeing issues related to the mass influx of refugees. 20% of migrants say Colombia is their desired destination, likely due to the country’s proximity and welcoming policies. The Colombian government allows refugees access to healthcare and, if the individual has a passport, access to schools. However, officials say the increased demand has swamped government resources. Further, crime amongst the migrant Venezuelan population has dramatically increased. Unemployment has migrants taking jobs at lower wages and forced some to turn to prostitution.
With elections in Venezuela approaching, it remains a question whether Maduro will get another chance to revitalize the decimated country.
- What obligations, if any, do these neighboring countries have to Venezuelans? Reminder that Venezuela – formerly the wealthiest nation in Latin America – once welcomed more than 1 million Colombians in the 20th century.
- The scale of this emigration resembles the Syrians migration to Germany and the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar. Should there be a bigger focus on these types of crises and their impacts on economies?
- If the US government is going to tighten borders and immigration controls, what alternatives should be considered to help Venezuela and its people?