The normalization of horror in Venezuela

While Venezuelans are leaving their country in growing numbers, international groups committed to dialogue, are normalizing the horror that is gripping Venezuela.

Angelina Jolie at a Venezuelan refugee camp in Colombia (EFE).

According to the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the number of Venezuelans who have left their country has crossed four million. To put this number in perspective, 13% of the population has abandoned Venezuela. It is one of the most significant population outflows in the world, second only to Syria, a country that has been at war since 2011. The pace of the Venezuelan exodus is overwhelming. At the end of 2015, there were only 695,000 Venezuelan migrants. The number has increased by one million since November 2018.

The Latin American countries receive the majority of Venezuelan migrants. There are 1.3 million Venezuelans in Colombia, 768,000 in Peru, 288,000 in Chile, 263,000 in Ecuador, 130,000 in Argentina, and 168,000 in Brazil. In the short term, Colombia is bearing the financial burden of the Venezuelan exodus by providing health and education to migrants. According to the OAS Working Group on Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees, each additional day that Maduro holds on power, five thousand Venezuelans emigrate. I wonder if the capitals of the region have done simple arithmetic.

Adding to the grievances, the UN has not awarded refugee status to Venezuelan migrants. Thus, they cannot access legal protection (for example, a refugee passport), or receive adequate international aid. Five thousand USD per capita are allocated for Syrian “refugees” who do have refugee status. For Venezuelan migrants, that amount is 300 USD per capita. Reporting and talking about this tragedy without taking the necessary steps is a way of normalizing the horror.

Of the four million Venezuelan migrants, 1.1 million are children whose parents have taken them out of the country to escape the humanitarian catastrophe. One out of three children in Venezuela (or 3.2 million children) requires urgent nutritional, educational, and health assistance. The magnitude of the crisis is such that more than 750,000 children and teenagers have been pushed off the school system. Child mortality (under five years) has doubled from 14 per 1000 live births in 2010-2011 to 31 per 1000 live births in 2017.

The dialogue in Oslo normalizes this horror. The negotiations go on in secrecy. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly, Guaido’s ambassadors are all in the dark about the terms of the discussions. The Colombian government found out through the media. The interim government has seemingly agreed to share the natural habitat of the regime, its refusal of transparency.

In Oslo, members of parliament are negotiating with the regime. A third of them cannot even attend these sessions because they are in hiding, imprisoned, kidnapped, or have sought exile in some embassy. Edgar Zambrano, the vice president of the Assembly, is missing. His family does not have information about the status of his health or whether he is even alive.

In Oslo, do they speak on behalf of the refugees? Have they demanded that the regime stops abusing people as a prerequisite to participate in conversations with the torturers? It is not clear who decided to engage in this dialogue. But, it is not suitable for Venezuela to go from one usurpation to another. Only the voters give legitimacy.

Diplomacy through euphemisms also normalizes the horror. Three countries from the Lima Group, Canada, Chile, and Peru, met others from the International Contact Group, Uruguay and Portugal, along with Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union. The objective was to talk about “free elections” in Venezuela.

However, they did not specify that Maduro had to step down for power for Venezuela to indeed have fair and free elections. If this diplomacy demands credibility, they cannot leave Colombia and Brazil out of conversations about Venezuela. The map of the region clearly shows why. The International Contact Group should not conduct its conference in Uruguay, a country that recognizes Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela.

Continuing these diplomatic euphemisms, the meetings between the foreign ministries of Canada and Cuba normalize the horror. Canada is a stable democracy and a champion of human rights. However, its Foreign Minister now believes that “Cuba has a role to play in Venezuela’s return to democracy.”

The Cuban dictatorship still receives 60,000 barrels of oil per day from Venezuela. Cuba provides security to protect Maduro from the Venezuelan military. It controls the intelligence of the SEBIN, the torturers of the DGCIM, the airports, the identity cards, and the electoral roll. But Chrystia Freeland tells us that the very dictatorship is going to help Venezuela in its democratization.

Cuba’s role in impeding justice in Venezuela has never been more apparent. But in Ottawa, they believe that the government of Cuba will support the democratization of Venezuela. They are normalizing the horror in Venezuela.

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