Worsening Crisis in Venezuela Prompts Sharp International Reaction [Opinion]

Nicolás Maduro addresses the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's Extraordinary Summit in Istanbul on Wednesday, December 13, 2017.
Erhan Elaldi / Pool Photo/AP Images

After the death of Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro assumed the role and the responsibilities of the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Human rights observers did not anticipate an improvement of the political and social climates. Still, not many foresaw such a rapid and drastic deterioration of living conditions. As a result of the inflation, rampant crime, and grave food shortages of medicine and food, there has been a departure from Venezuela. Many Venezuelans have been living in Spain and the United States.

Brazil and Colombia, which are neighboring countries, have also seen an increasingly massive influx of the troubled nation’s citizens. Life in a border country, however, has not necessarily brought relief from the poverty and suffering that have engulfed so many lives. The New York Times reported that some Venezuelans fighting for survival have resorted to selling their hair in Cucuta, a border town in Colombia; they bath in Pamplonita River in spite of its contamination from raw sewage. Nonetheless, many find this preferable to life in Venezuela.

Further, according to the Miami Herald, Venezuelan women that were “teachers and doctors” have become prostitutes to support themselves and their families. The severity of the situation has meant that some have expressed gratitude for having this job as opposed to living without any income.

On Monday, April 3, 2017, protesters of the Venezuelan government break into song in Washington outside the Organization of American States (OAS) during the special session of the Permanent Council. Jose Luis Magana / AP Images

International reaction to these developments has sharpened, and Venezuela’s plan to hold a snap presidential election on April 22 has elicited a particularly strong response. The Miami Herald reported that just last Tuesday, at the conclusion of a meeting of the Lima Group, the Peruvian government announced that Maduro was not welcome at the Summit of the Americas in April. Explaining its decision, Peru decried the regime’s plan as unconstitutional.

According to a BBC report, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has defended the April date for the presidential election as a just reaction to the European Union’s decision to sanction Venezuela. On January 22, the European Council of the European Union issued a press release that detailed this decision that placed “seven individuals holding official positions under restrictive measures, with immediate effect” on account of “the continuing deterioration of the situation” in the country.

The United States government has been equally vocal in its condemnation of the Maduro regime. Earlier in the month, Secretary of State Tillerson expressed his concern over the exploding humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and called for democratic elections.

The Trump administration has also signaled its support of Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s decision to disinvite Maduro from the Summit of the Americas.

While these actions have been welcome, many believe that in order to provoke a real reversal of the worsening climate in Venezuela, the pressure from the international community needs to be consistent and constant.