Socialist Venezuela’s Collapse Causing Another Refugee Crisis

Failed policies and unchecked government spending have turned what once was one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries into a disaster…

Nicolas Maduro

Nicolas Maduro/IMAGE: Youtube

(Stephan Kueffner, Bloomberg News) Government officials from across Latin America and the Caribbean are meeting in Quito, Ecuador to coordinate a response to the regional humanitarian crisis caused by Venezuela’s economic collapse.

The socialist experiment to nationalize Venezuela’s oil industry, started under autocrat Hugo Chavez, has rapidly spiraled into freefall as failed policies and unchecked government spending have turned what once was one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries into a disaster.

Shortages of food and medicine are ongoing. Public transportation is erratic, and lack of electricity and water has become much more commonplace.

Unrest there has helped spur a global energy crisis, while Chavez’s successor, President Nicolas Maduro, has done little to ameliorate the conditions, while drawing international criticism for his unconstitutional re-election earlier this year.

Now, representatives from Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Panama, Dominican Republic and Ecuador are meeting through Tuesday to discuss how to respond to mass migration from Venezuela, and how to protect vulnerable migrants from xenophobia and exploitation by black-market employers and criminal gangs.

More than 2 million Venezuelans are now living outside their homeland as part of a migration crisis that’s become particularly acute across Latin America this year.

Colombia and Ecuador have been most affected, though Brazil recently authorized the use of its armed forces to help contend with an increase in Venezuelans crossing into its territory, while Peru declared a border emergency on health and sanitation concerns due to increased migration.

Nations as far away as Uruguay are getting more Venezuelans.

Millions have “been obliged to leave Venezuela, affected by a profound economic and political crisis,” said Santiago Chavez, Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister, who is chairing the meeting.

Until recently, Ecuador had been one of Venezuela’s main allies in the region. But the government of President Lenin Moreno, which took office in 2017, has distanced itself as Venezuela has become gripped by mass hunger and political repression.

A decade ago, Venezuelan migrants tended to have more resources, often making it as far as Miami or Madrid. Now, they are arriving in regional cities malnourished. Some are even trekking across Colombian highways on foot.

(Ezra Fieser and Patricia Laya contributed to this report.)

(c)2018 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.