The Coming Catastrophe for Venezuela and Colombia

In a period that is perceived as very short - months - Colombia will be facing a human tsunami.

The border between Colombia and Venezuela has seen over 3 million refugees crossing. EFE / Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

The attempt last week to introduce to Venezuela a few dozen trucks loaded with humanitarian aid had, evidently, a political objective. A few warehouses full of medicines and food could undoubtedly have helped some of those in need, but, obviously, the quantities involved in this effort represent a grain of salt compared to the enormous needs of the suffering Venezuelan people. The main purpose of the effort was to strip Maduro’s regime naked before the whole world. It was necessary for those who still doubted the criminal nature of the Caracas regime, and the true extent of their pettiness and corruption. That goal was achieved.

Nicolás Maduro is today, in the eyes of the world, a dictator of those who appear in comic books like Tin Tin. Maduro is a cartoon of the stereotypical Latin American “maluco” ruler. General Alcazar in the fictional banana republic of Tapioca with whom Tin Tin often clashes. This is how the world sees him.

The global extreme left, and their allies burrowed in some mainstream English language media, are still trying to help Maduro by portraying what is happening in Venezuela as a confrontation between the United States and its great enemies, Russia and China. They succeeded in deceiving many for a time, but the deception is already evident. The world is already aware that neither China nor Russia, while clearly ready to put up obstacles constraining U.S. policy, have no intention of helping Maduro.

Unfortunately, the events of the last week have also made it clear that Maduro and his henchmen, supported and guided by Cuba, will try to resist to the ultimate consequences. What can Venezuela – and Colombia – its next-door neighbor and recipient of most Venezuelan refugees, hope for then? The answer depends on the time the international community takes to understand that, in the end, there are actions that cannot be avoided.

The Venezuelan economy has been destroyed. This has been widely reported and analyzed by the most prominent experts around the world. Venezuela has suffered an economic debacle never before seen in history for a country that has not been the victim of war. Today Venezuela’s economy is 70% smaller than it was in 2014. The level of destruction of its productive, agricultural and industrial infrastructure is even greater than in countries devastated by civil wars. The economic strategy of the regime in Caracas consists of one stupidity after another. The country is spent and prostrated. The currency has literally disappeared, and the economy continues, incredibly, shrinking even more.

In the Venezuelan cities, electric outages, in what was the most electrified country on the continent, are not only daily but almost permanent in some regions. Water does not reach many areas of the country due to the lack of spare parts and maintenance for the equipment of the aqueducts. The ports and airports already seem almost ruins of antiquity; not to mention the hospitals, of which innumerable reports have been made about their total collapse. All this will deteriorate further in the coming months. The mass exodus of a large part of the population is then inevitable.

The majority of the Venezuelan population will have to choose between death by hunger and exile. A recent study published by The Brookings Institution  has concluded that in 2019 Venezuela’s neighbors could receive up to 4 million additional refugees. According to the study a total 8 million Venezuelans would have left the country by the end of this year, a larger number of refugees than Syria and comparable to those seen in the worst crisis ever seen in Africa. If oil production falls to only 600,000 barrels/day, as BP CEO Robert Dudley recently mentioned to Bloomberg, the number of additional refugees could reach 8 million. If the situation continues, in 2020 there could be several million more.

That exodus that is coming -and it will come with absolute certainty –  will be directed mainly towards the sister Republic of Colombia (Venezuela and Colombia were one nation until 1830), already burdened with the arrival over the last few years of more than 1 million Venezuelans, and the unexpected return of an equal number of its own citizens who until recently lived in Venezuela. In a period that is perceived as very short – months – Colombia will be facing a human tsunami.

On average, 35,000 Venezuelans cross the border to Colombia every day in search of food and medicine. EFE/ Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

When analyzing the next course of actions towards the Venezuelan dictatorship, the nations that make up the Lima Group, the United States and the European Union must consider the consequences for both Venezuela and Colombia of extending Maduro’s exit. Latin America has had other dictators, some bloody and cruel, but none that have caused similar destruction in their own country or inflicted the worst suffering – hunger – on millions of their own citizens.

South America and the world are facing a situation never seen in the West. Hopefully the leaders in South America, the United States and Europe will be up to the task and realize the urgency of the situation. Otherwise the events that will happen in the coming months will condemn them before history as responsible for the worst humanitarian catastrophe ever seen in the Western World.

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