Venezuela: A Country in Crisis
Venezuela is in the middle of a political and economic crisis which has sparked a mass emigration by nationalities of the country. The crisis has worsened due to severe economic conditions that have led to increased crime rates, shortages in medicine and food, and an oppressive regime led by President Nicolas Maduro. The crisis, which ranks as one of the most intense in South America in decades, has seen a rise in inflation to a tune of 83,000% as of July 2018 (BBC News, 2018). The unbearable conditions in the country have led to some of the worst humanitarian crises such as poverty and lack of medicines experienced in the South American continent in decades.
Background of the Humanitarian Crisis
The collapse of the Venezuelan economy and system dates back to 1999 when Hugo Chavez took over as president of Venezuela. After taking over, there were immediate consolidations of power both politically and economically. During his reign as president, Chavez instigated irresponsible monetary policies which were characterized by tight government controls on exchange rates and capital actions which he justified through the nationalization of business as well acquisition of private property. The punitive and harsh systems leveled against the private sector immensely affected the industry, although its implication to the general Venezuela economy was minimal due to the revenues acquired from the nation's oil industry.
After the death of Chavez in 2013, Nicolas Maduro took over as president and continued the same trend of accumulation of political and economic power set by his predecessor. The crisis officially began in 2014 after the collapse of oil prices worldwide. The collapse of the oil prices exposed the economic damage that was engineered by both President Chavez and Maduro as inflation kicked in and Maduro's government imposed oppressive measures which were characterized by police crackdowns on protests due to unbearable economic conditions. Unsurprisingly, the country was always vulnerable to external shocks caused by the collapse of oil prices due to its heavy economic reliance on oil. Oil in Venezuela accounts for 25 percent of its gross domestic product and 95 percent of its total export earnings (Ordo, Ntilde, 2018).
The Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela
Observers have classified the situation in Venezuela as a humanitarian crisis that has steamed out of control. According to a 2016 report released by the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation, the estimated lack of medical supplies stands at 85%. Difficulty in acquiring or a general lack of medicines was reported in hospitals around the country. Government figures between 2014 and 2016 indicated a 65 percent maternal mortality rate as well as a 30 percent infant mortality rate. The situation is further worsened by the resurgence of diseases such as malaria and diphtheria which had been eliminated in the past.
Another issue that has contributed to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is poverty. According to Casey (2018), a study released by a local university indicated that 87 percent of the population in the country could not afford basic food supplies. Another report featuring a similar topic found out that 30 percent of children were suffering from malnutrition. A report produced by the Human Rights Watch in 2016 reported that President Maduro's government blocked attempts by the opposition leaders in the Venezuela Assembly to seek international help.
The worsening economic conditions have also led to a rise in crime in the country. As of 2016, the state reported its highest number of homicides, which were at a staggering 91.8 percent per 100,000 residents. The response to such crimes by Maduro's regime has been the deployment of the military in the streets factor that has led to extrajudicial killings and abuse of human rights as reported by foreign media and rights groups.
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has led to a spillover across neighboring countries. According to credible reports, there are a reported number of around five hundred thousand Venezuelans fleeing the country to neighboring nations such as Brazil and Colombia. The mass emigration has led to the deaths of many who often succumb to diseases and harsh environmental conditions as well as an outbreak of bugs in the border of the countries they are migrating.
The Government's Response to the Crisis
The government has made frantic efforts towards alleviating the crisis. Among its efforts include the lopping of five zeros on the old strong bolivar currency and subsequently renaming it the sovereign bolivar. The new currency forms part of new measures introduced by the country's leadership in its effort to trigger economic recovery. The government has also made efforts towards raising its minimum wage as well as anchoring its new currency to the petrol which is a virtual currency linked to its oil reserves. The country has also increased the value added taxes (VAT) to 16 percent up from 4 percent. However, despite the attempts made by the government, little has been achieved regarding solving the economic and political turmoil which has plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis.
Key International Actors
The humanitarian crisis has caught the attention of the neighboring and the international community. The Organization of American States (OAS), for example, through its Secretary General Luis Almagro, has been vocal about the human rights and the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela (Council on Foreign Relations, 2018). The organization has conducted several public hearings to ascertain whether crimes committed to the civilian in the country amount to crimes against humanity. Mercosur, the regional trading bloc, suspended Venezuela on the grounds of violation of the constitutional order according to the Ushuaia protocol.
The Lima declaration, which was signed by 17 foreign affairs ministers emerging from the South American states and Canada, condemned the disorder in Venezuela as well as the violation of human rights in the nation. The member states restricted the sale of weapons to Venezuela, pointing out the lack of willingness on the part of Maduro's regime to resist humanitarian aid. The withdrawal of the Venezuelan government in 2013 from the American Convention on Human rights has left the people of Venezuela exposed to human rights abuse as they are unable to seek international assistance from Inter-American Court of Human rights in instances whereby local courts are unable to serve justice as per their needs.
The United States President Barack Obama issued several sanctions in 2015 to seven government officials in Venezuela as well as a ban on trade deals that involved bonds and new stocks from Venezuela's oil company and its government. The European Union also stepped in to condemn the manner in which the humanitarian crisis was being handled in the country. The EU has since imposed sanctions on officials in the Venezuelan government as well as an arms embargo to the South American nation.
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela can be resolved through multiple angles. There is the option of carrying out punishment as suggested by the Grotius theory, which advocated for the use of the punitive military to solve humanitarian crises by the international society. The second approach relies on the proposals made by the fiduciary theory of humanitarian intervention, thus urging nations to use the fiduciary character in their efforts towards humanitarian intervention.
Observations and Recommendations
Based on several observations and consideration from other humanitarian crises such as the Syrian Crisis, the crisis in Venezuela looks set to continue for a while. The situation could get worse due to several sympathizers such as Russia and China, which have continued to support the Venezuelan government in spite of the deteriorating conditions in the country. However, in spite of the setbacks, there are several measures which can be adopted to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the country.
First, the United Nations needs to step up its effort towards addressing the humanitarian crisis in the country. The efforts towards addressing the issues arising from the country should major in developing a concrete plan that involves the creation of a task force that can engage multilaterally and the private sector in Venezuela. The International communities such as The United States, Canada, the European Union, and the Latin-speaking nations should formulate a workout plan that involves the use of nongovernmental organizations such as Diocese of Cucuta to help reach out refugees and civilians in the country who are in urgent need of medical and food supplies.
Secondly, United Nations in conjunction with other nations should enact policy measurements that help immigrants from Venezuela with visas and access to temporary employment opportunities to prevent the documentation of immigrants which can pose a danger to both the countries and the civilians. Also, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) should develop mechanisms that help the Venezuelans to claim political asylum to prevent the burden of dependence on aid.
Lastly, the United Nations, the private sector, and entrepreneurs in Venezuela should be supported and encouraged to pursue the use of technological tools such as the blockchain to facilitate transparent distribution of aid. The use of blockchain can be an effective means of getting the country back on its feet as experienced by countries such as Finland, which has made use of the technology to ease transactions.
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is a significant policy issue that warrants the attention of the world. The recent developments of events in the nation, which include the government's decline of humanitarian aid, mass emigration of people, and outbreak of diseases, have further worsened the situation. It is therefore of great importance and urgency that the world considers the Venezuelan Humanitarian crisis to help alleviate the deplorable conditions that the civilians are experiencing in their home country.
BBC News. (2018). Venezuela crisis: A country in freefall. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america
Casey, N. (2018). Venezuelans Ransack Stores as Hunger Grips the Nation. [Online] Nytimes.com.
CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2014/12/01/falling-crude-oil-prices-crush-venezuelas-ailing-economy
Council on Foreign Relations. (2018). The Organization of American States. [online] Available at: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/organization-american-states [Accessed 21 Sep. 2018].
Ordoñez, S. (2018). Venezuela's future: 'Barbarity and people looting'. [online]