Venezuela is a country located in the north of South America and has a population of 28 million people. Unfortunately, the economic and political crisis in the country, especially since 2015, makes Venezuela one of the most sending countries after Syria, which has been destroyed by the civil war. For the last few years, one of every 5 people has been leaving the country, and the rest of the population is struggling with the country’s problems. Immigration from the country is mostly concentrated in other South American countries, but Venezuelans are actually located all over the world. Colombia, which has a common border with Venezuela, hosts almost 2 million Venezuelan immigrants. Colombia is followed by countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Chile. There are close to 6 million Venezuelan immigrants worldwide (Ozdemir, 2021).
Causes of Emigration from the Country
Migration is a phenomenon that occurs in all countries of the world, which is inevitable but brings problems with it. Migrations seen throughout history have occurred when people leave the place where they are currently located for certain reasons. The most important factors that lead people to leave their places are economic and security problems. In addition to the many changes that have occurred in the country receiving migration, the countries that are migrating are also facing a decrease in population (Ekici & Tuncel, 2015).
Since 2015, a stream of emigration from Venezuela has begun, which has been observed in masses and has been carried out to other Latin American countries. Venezuelan migrants and refugees cope with many difficulties, as well as the opportunities they find in the countries where they emigrate and take refuge.
I. Economic Crisis
Venezuela has been fighting an intense and convulsive economic crisis for several years. The most effective reason that pushes the Venezuelan people to leave the country is hyperinflation, the solution of which has not been found. According to the data of 2019, the country’s economy has shrunk by half, while it has exhibited a shocking picture internationally. The Venezuelan people are experiencing epidemics due to the economic crisis and violent crimes are increasing (AA, 2019).
Venezuela has been one of the most remarkable countries throughout history with its rich oil reserves among Latin American countries. For this reason, the country has become economically dependent on fossil fuels. In a country dependent on income from rich natural resources, power is mostly concentrated in the wealthy minority. Unfortunately, while oil prices in the country reached $100 in 2014, in early 2016, prices fell sharply to below $30. This situation also affected the already complicated political situation in the country, creating an atmosphere of chaos. The escalating economic crisis under the administration of Nicolas Maduro, who was controversially elected president of the country in 2019, is still raising political tensions (Council on Foreign Relations, 2021).
The level of production in the country, where oil dependence cannot be stopped, is very low. The low production rate seen in recent years has fallen to a level not seen for decades. In addition, Venezuela has become a country of debts, and the country’s debt has exceeded $150 million. One of the biggest problems of the country, which has a debt many times higher than its own economic volume, is hyperinflation. The country’s economic problems have been aggravated in recent years by international sanctions, which also brought about a political crisis. In the process of coronavirus, the country’s economy has become even smaller. The citizens of the country are deprived of many basic needs, such as food, water, and health care. The economic crisis has led to a humanitarian crisis, leaving citizens no choice but to flee the country. According to poverty level surveys conducted throughout Latin America, 96 percent of Venezuelans live in poverty, and this is the highest rate. There is no hope yet for Venezuelans who are fighting the hardships they are experiencing in their own countries and in the countries, they emigrate to (Council on Foreign Relations, 2021).
II. Political Factors
Venezuela is a country where political instability and corruption are often encountered. Although Nicolas Maduro officially won the presidential election in 2019, the country had not been able to reach a decision on who would be the legitimate president in the country for a long time. Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president after the 2019 elections, and this decision was also recognized internationally. In particular, the US failure to recognize Maduro’s presidency during the Trump administration has led to the harshest embargoes facing Venezuela. The fact that the Maduro administration has received support from powerful countries such as China and Russia has not been able to prevent the economic crisis in the country. The inability of the Maduro administration, which is considered to be far from democracy and human rights, to cope with the economic crisis has been jarring for the Venezuelan people. The sharp drops in oil prices, the use of oil revenues with short-term plans starting from the period of Hugo Chavez (1971-1992), and the US embargoes are the factors that triggered the chaotic environment during the Maduro era (BBC, 2019).
In addition to the economic crisis, the administration, which is far from democracy and fights corruption in the country, has completely lost the trust of the public. According to a nationwide survey conducted in 2019, Venezuelans, although they are not supporters of a political party, mostly have negative thoughts about the Maduro administration. While %80 of respondents have negative views about Maduro, Maduro’s opponent Juan Guaido has received 62 percent of positive votes. This situation, in which public distrust is manifested to such an extent, is even more visible among Venezuelan youth (Pollfish, 2019)
For now, there is no solution to the political and economic crisis in the country and the Venezuelan people have lost faith in social stability. While the public does not resent the traditional political parties, there are lots of people who are warm to Juan Guaido’s advent to the presidency. Political instability, resentment of the country’s rulers, inability to meet the basic needs of the citizens leave the people of the country no choice but to emigrate.
Prepared by Gökçen Hardal for The FEAS Journal.
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