Aiding Our South American Neighbors in Venezuela

By Kassandra Lopez, Global Strategic Communications graduate student at the University of Florida

I shudder to think of how radically different my life would be if just one factor changed. The political situation in Venezuela has created a trickle-down effect that has seeped into every aspect of daily life. The conditions in this country are dire, leaving millions of people to flee to neighboring countries to escape. What are they escaping? Food insecurity, lack of jobs, absence of medicines and other services provided by a traditional government.

Venezuelans cross the Simon Bolivar International Bridge into the border city of Cúcuta, Colombia, October 2018. © UNHCR/Fabio Cuttica

Venezuelans are so desperate that they are willing to escape the situation at any cost. As Nayebis Carolina Figuera, a 34-year-old from Venezuela who fled to neighboring Brazil states to the UNHR “We left everything in Venezuela. We don’t have a place to live or sleep and have nothing to eat.” Not to forget the violence that comes with surviving in those conditions. People will go to great lengths to escape the grip of violence and disparity in the nation. Ana is a Venezuelan woman in Ecuador, who shares her story with the UNHR “We walked for 11 days and had to sleep outside. We left because they threatened to kill us. My brother was killed… They almost killed me.” about her own refugee migration from Venezuela amidst the crisis. The video below gave me chills, as the UNHR shows the story of millions who choose to walk away from Venezuela to neighboring countries, risking their lives in hopes of a better life.

Venezuela’s “walkers” make perilous journey in search of safety (Hélène Caux, producer / Diana Diaz, camera-editor)

The entire nation of Venezuela is essentially in a state of emergency that will be immensely difficult to pull themselves out of. While Maduro and Guiado are fighting for control since earlier this year, according to Megan Specia in her article, “Venezuelans to cope with a humanitarian crisis unseen in the country’s modern history. In the once prosperous nation, people now find themselves unable to provide for their most basic needs. Hunger is widespread and children are dying of malnutrition. The country’s public health care system has collapsed and prolonged electricity outages are common.”

What is most alarming is to me is those beign forced to leave, were already living on the edge of necessity. According to the UNHR in their report, which can be accessed here. “The majority of refugees and migrants from Venezuela arriving in neighboring countries are families with children, pregnant women, elderly people and people with disabilities. Often obliged to take irregular routes to reach safety, they may fall prey to smugglers, traffickers and irregular armed groups. As more and more families arrive with fewer and fewer resources, they are in immediate need of documentation, protection, shelter, food, and medicine.” The people who are forced to leave (a whopping 10% of the population) are ironically those who are already disadvantaged in some way.

Picture by GETTY Images.
Picture by GETTY Images.
The UN condemned operations including those carried out by Venezuela’s special Faes force. (GETTY Images/BBC Venezuela crisis: UN to investigate alleged human rights violations)

What is occurring in Venezuela should be a concern for all. It is a human rights violation of a grand scale. Recently, the UN has called for an investigation into ongoing murders that Venezuela claims are justified. In this article they highlight how “The UN Human Rights Council will investigate alleged human rights violations in Venezuela, including executions, disappearances, and torture.” More so, countries who have backed this proposal are horrified at the ongoings. “ “It must be clear to all at this council that when violations of this gravity and scale are reported to us, we must respond in an equally serious manner,” said UK Ambassador Julian Braithwaite, whose country backed the resolution” There is also a strong indication that “The Venezuela government is sending death squads to murder young men and staging the scenes to make it look like the victims resisted arrest.” According to a report filed in July of 2019 by UN human rights chief.

We cannot afford as a society to sit back idly and watch the nation of Venezuela crumble. As Amnesty International has found in their studies “Instead of acknowledging and addressing this deep human rights crisis, the authorities are implementing a systematic and widespread policy of repression against those people who are bravely calling for a change in government and for guaranteed access to medicines, water, education, work, and other human rights. Moreover, a biased justice system is denying victims the right to truth, justice, and reparations, reinforcing the lack of protection of those suffering these violations.”

There is no denying the ongoing situation is brutal and is wreaking lasting effects on Venezuelans. This should serve as a call to action, we should all do all that is in our power are individuals to seek aid for this nation. While countries treat those fleeing as second-class citizens, refuse refugees, place embargos on the nation and turn a blind eye to their plight. We are responsible for contacting our local representatives and legislature and asking for change. We must create awareness among our peers. There is hope if we empower the people of Venezuela they can advocate for themselves. This article, by Amy Chillag provides resources for aiding Venezuela. “There are things you can do to help ease the trauma for those suffering. International relief groups are responding, and you can support them by clicking the “Take Action” button above or by going directly to the Public Good campaign here.

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