The political instability in Venezuela continues to cause a humanitarian crisis in the region as people try to seek refuge in the neighboring countries. Venezuela was once a country spurring hope in the region due to its stable economy and a functioning political system. Not anymore, problems erupting immediately after the death of President Hugo Chaves and election of the current premiere Nicolas Maduro. The main problem seems to be a difference in ideologies with one faction supporting the socialist policies of the Chavistas while the other faction opposed to it and demanding change.
The Blame Game
United Socialist Party (PSUV) has been in power in Venezuela for 19 years now and there are those who praise it (popularly referred to as Chavistas) for using the oil wealth in the right manner reducing poverty and inequality. But the opposition parties want to hear none of it and blames the PSUV for diminishing democracy and mismanaging the economy. The government has also been caught in the blame game, where it’s accusing the opposition of being influenced by the US to have it unable to rule. It’s also accusing the opposition leaders of greed and been driven by personal gains.
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Falling Oil Prices
The situation is made worse by the falling oil prices which have made the government curtail its spending including the provision of social programs. This has caused President Maduro to lose support and at one time was pelted with stones by an angry crowd.
Mass Exodus To Colombia
Venezuelans now are left with a slim choice of what to do and are therefore resulting to migrate to the neighboring countries with Columbia bearing the full burden of this migration. Its estimated that in February alone around 91,000 Venezuelans crossed to Colombia daily. Once in Colombia, they continue with their exodus into Peru, Chile, and Ecuador. But a big number of those migrants remain in Colombia with some obtaining a Special Permanent Permission (PEP) on the promise that they will go back to Venezuela after getting emergency medical care or working for a few days or just having a decent meal. But they never return, Migracion Colombia says it has already issued over 1.6 million short-term visas to those who have come forward although many more still remains unrecorded.
Many humanitarian organizations have come to the aid of these refugees with some providing food and medicine. The government of Colombia has jumped ship and tried to offer any help it can. President Juan Manuel Santos CalderÃ³n recently traveled to Cucuta and witnessed the crises calling for a major international response as a matter of urgency.
The soaring numbers of Venezuelans choosing to remain in Colombia could cause a major humanitarian and peace crises in the region if a solution was not reached as soon as possible. Having said this, it is clear that it’s time the international community woke up and sought the way forward on how to get Venezuela put its house in order.