A few weeks ago, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro admitted that his economic model has failed and that Venezuelans are undergoing severe hardships under his administration that has mismanaged the economy of the oil-rich country.
Mr. Maduro’s admission of failure came amidst food and medicine shortages and public service paralysis, such as a power failure, closure of schools and universities, and poor health and social services that have affected about 80 percent of the country. The admission has reinforced the belief that the Venezuelan people will undergo the adversities for much longer as the Maduro clings to power.
Having overseen his once-wealthy country’s descent into economic, political and social crisis and chaos, Mr. Maduro has weathered virtually every threat that could be faced by an unpopular leader. They include an alleged assassination attempt; a thwarted coup -attempt; threats of an international military invasion; severe economic sanctions; bankruptcy; daily nationwide protests; regional isolation; claims of a rigged election and near global refusal to recognize his presidency as legitimate.
Venezuela is grappling with chronic inflation that the International Monetary Fund has predicted would reach one million percent this year, and that its Gross Domestic Product would plummet to 20 percent by year-end; a fourth-consecutive year of double-digit depreciation. The severity of the economic situation in the country is evident in the price of foodstuff.
President Maduro has consistently blamed the US, which has imposed harsh economic sanctions against him and top government officials, for Venezuela’s economic woes. However, economists have stated that the source of the country’s problems is its socialist policies that began under Mr. Maduro’s late predecessor, President Hugo Chávez in the 1990s. During that period, oil production crashed from a high of 3.2 million barrels a day in 2008 to a 30-year low of one million this year.
It is true that Mr. Maduro has many supporters in the country, but he has also created many enemies by imprisoning opponents and has introduced legislation to allow him to rule like a dictator. He will have a hard time inspiring an entire nation to help rebuild the country’s economy, which has totally collapsed. Mr. Maduro has isolated Venezuela from many of its allies in the region and the country is experiencing a brain drain, as middle-class Venezuelans are fleeing from the economic meltdown and political turmoil.
The exodus is threatening to overwhelm neighbouring countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Argentina and to some extent, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. The crisis could plunge the region into discord. Since it began, more than three million Venezuelans have migrated to the above mentioned countries – particularly Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, whose leaders have discussed how to stem the flow of Venezuelans and cope with the influx of those seeking refugee status.
Recently, a large number of Venezuelan refugees entered Brazil’s frontier towns and many of them are committing crimes against Brazilian businesspersons. Brazil’s President Michel Temer has criticized Maduro’s leftist government for the crisis that is causing an exodus of refugees into northern Brazil. President Temer has called for democratic reforms in Venezuela and, along with Peru and Colombia, has promised to restrict the number of Venezuelan refugees.
In Guyana, a relative flood of Venezuelan refugees is testing the country’s social services, but so far, the government has no plans to cap the numbers entering the country. However, if the trend continues, it may have to impose restrictions due to its limited resources.
Until then, the nation has promised to support the people of Venezuela with whom Guyana has enjoyed good relations, despite the border dispute. Venezuela is a country in need of a political solution, one that upholds the tenets of democracy.
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