If there was any doubt that Venezuela’s meltdown had reached a point of no-return, it was put to rest by the US Congressional Delegation’s visit to Guyana and its other neighbours.
With 2.3 million refugees having fled a country with the largest reserves of oil in the world – even more than Saudi Arabia! – neighbours like Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia may be more willing to consider the most radical ‘solution” to this regional crisis: regime change via military intervention.
When President Trump suggested that option last year, Caribbean and Latin America quickly objected, but a lot of water has since flowed under the bridge. Over in Brazil, locals in Roraima state, bordering Venezuela, have turned violent against Venezuelan refugees after their services were overwhelmed. Roraima, after all, earned the reputation as “the armpit of Brazil” because it’s the most underdeveloped state in that country – a thousand miles from glittering Sao Paulo and Rio.
While the world has become transfixed by refugees streaming from the Middle East into Europe, 1.5 million Venezuelans have ended up in Colombia, a country already wracked by poverty and drugs. Across one bridge alone, over 35,000 Venezuelans trek across daily with their miserly possessions slung across their backs. After accepting 400,000 refugees, Peru has started to tighten up on its regulations. Ecuador has already done the same.
And it’ll only get worse. Venezuelan inflation has crossed the ONE MILLION PERCENT mark, and Maduro has had to lop off five zeroes from the value of the Bolivar! That’s 100,000% devaluation, which has wiped out the value of all savings!! Floating a crypto currency is an act of desperation! Venezuela can’t meet its contractual obligations to ship its oil to customers to the tune of 600,000 barrels per day!! In the meantime, there are shortages of even basic foodstuffs in the country – much less pharmaceuticals.
And how did all of this start? With the presumably “good” intentions of Hugo Chavez, who railed against “American Imperialism” and nationalised a wide swathe of foreign businesses in Venezuela – including Exxon’s. He wanted to “help the poor” by directing oil revenues directly to them – and even tweaked the US’ nose by offering free oil to US inner-city ghettoes!!
Venezuela developed the classic Dutch Disease when the nationalised businesses collapsed and oil revenues were used to fill the gap.
When oil prices collapsed by 2014 – by which time Chavez had unexpectedly died and his successor was the inept Maduro – the Venezuelan economy imploded.
Your Eyewitness is worried that Maduro might try to rouse nationalistic sentiments to gain support by invading Essequibo.
As such, he supports that military intervention to staunch the implosion of Venezuela. But it must be led by regional forces.
…and Guyana déjà vu
Older Guyanese reading the above – or younger ones who know their history – would be struck by the parallels between the present collapse of the Venezuelan economy and that of ours under Burnham back in the 1970s. Like Chavez, Burnham was a “socialist” who wanted to “help the poor”, and railed against US and British “imperialism”. He nationalised foreign firms, and saw them collapse after he placed them in the hands of his ideologues!! Refugees poured out of Guyana, and we now have large communities in Suriname, Venezuela, New York and Toronto. We ended up with one of the largest per capita debt burdens in the world.
Rats started eating babies’ toes at GPHC!
Luckily, the Cold War ended and the PPP Government painstakingly rebuilt the economy, to move us from being a Highly Indebted Poor Country into a Middle Income Country. But now that the PNC’s back in office and oil has been found, its socialist proclivities have resurfaced.
Witness the crescendo of demands that oil revenues flow directly to the poor!! While sugar is killed!!
USAID has pumped in $56 million to assist with the refugees…but it’s a drop in the ocean. The US also deployed a Naval Medical Ship off Colombia to help. But so have the Chinese!!
And they’ll oppose military intervention for sure!