Dr. Paul Coyer, research professor at IWP, recently spoke with Drew Griffin, the managing editor of Providence, a journal of Christianity and foreign policy, to discuss the current crisis in Venezuela and its uncertain future.
The continuing crisis in Venezuela
Dr. Coyer began by explaining what led Venezuela, once the wealthiest country in Latin America and the fourth wealthiest country in the world, to such a crisis. He also described Hugo Chavez’s rise to power, as well as Nicolas Maduro targeting American interests by aligning with Iran, Hezbollah, the Palestinian authority of Hamas-Fatah, China, and Russia. Dr. Coyer explained that Maduro undermined and, ultimately, destroyed critical democratic institutions in Venezuela. They also discussed Juan Guaidó’s rise to power after invoking the Constitution and declaring himself as interim president of Venezuela.
Dr. Coyer contended that the issue in Venezuela has developed into an economic, security, energy, political, refugee, and healthcare crisis. Around three million Venezuelans, 10% of the population, have left the country. The majority, one million, have left to Colombia. Other countries with a high number of Venezuelans seeking asylum are the United States, Peru, and Ecuador. In the United States specifically, 80,000 Venezuelans have come seeking asylum. The healthcare and education sector has completely collapsed. The lack of resources, such as medicine, electricity, and water, as well as the lack of personnel, has resulted in the eruption of many diseases, such as measles and polio, as well as the increase in malnutrition, which is the leading cause of death at the moment.
Threats to recovery in Venezuela
Next, Dr. Coyer discussed the various threats to Venezuela’s recovery. The security crisis across the border is due to malign actors, such as Russia and China, who sell weapons that can be smuggled through the border to the Hezbollah and other terror groups. These actors want to undermine and reshape U.S. influence internationally. Dr. Coyer claimed that the Russians use Venezuela in order to point a finger at the United States, as they have done so in the past with Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush’s support of the Orange revolution in Ukraine. As for China, Dr. Coyer stated that the Chinese have a plan to reshape the international order to put themselves in the center and undermine U.S. influence.
As for what is needed in order for Venezuela to recover, Dr. Coyer asserted that it will take years, at least a decade, of rebuilding to get the country back to what it once was. Out of all the revenue gained through oil, very little was invested in Venezuela’s critical facilities, such as infrastructure. Petroleum continues to be very profitable, and Venezuela does have economic potential. Nonetheless, this will take years to rebuild and consists of obtaining the ability to bring people back to Venezuela who are assets in rebuilding the country, as well as billions of dollars, due to the lack of investment because of the decrease in oil production.
Looking to the future
The international community has stepped up in order to help Venezuela in a number of ways. 54 countries have recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela. The U.S. specifically is working with Guaidó’s ambassadors in order to get the European allies to become more aggressive in their economic sanctions on the people and institutions in Venezuela to cut the money flow completely. The U.S. is also partnering with Columbia to provide Venezuelans with access to healthcare and education, amongst other resources. Religious communities are also working in and outside of Venezuela in order to provide citizens with necessary resources, such as food, education, and healthcare. These communities are partnering with outside churches and NGOs to provide necessary aid.
Dr. Coyer and Mr. Griffin concluded their conversation by discussing the uncertain future of Venezuela, as well as what can we do to help. When asked about what would happen to Maduro; Dr. Coyer stated that the longer Maduro stays in power, the less likely it is that a peaceful transition will occur. Nonetheless, Maduro is not the only challenge that Venezuela currently faces. There are a significant number of powerful, internal and external actors working together to contribute to the crisis. Dr. Coyer asserted that there has been some improvement as a result of diplomatic and economic pressure. Nevertheless, there is still much improvement to be made. Dr. Coyer stated that we can help Venezuela by praying, staying informed, and getting in touch with churches and different NGOs in order to provide Venezuelans with necessary aid.