Venezuela is no longer being led by politicians. Sadly, the country is now being governed by thugs, criminals, and narcos; a cesspool of corruption and violence disguised as a benevolent socialist revolution. The socialist experiment designed by Mr. Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, has led to one of the worst catastrophes in Latin American history. Venezuela is crying for help, gasping for its last breath before it collapses entirely and becomes an unquestionable failed state.

Since 2014, the UN has documented that at least 2.3 million have fled Venezuela in search of a better life. Whether these people should be classified as migrants or refugees is a discussion in itself. A migrant chooses to move and a refugee is forced to move. One could argue that in Venezuela’s case there is a mixture of both, painting the issue less black and white. 

As of November 2018, between 2.4 million and 4 million Venezuelans were documented to live abroad. According to estimates, 5,000 people continue to abandon Venezuela every day. By applying simple math, it is feasible to project that within a year an additional 1.8 million Venezuelans will migrate abroad, pushing the exodus total between 4.2 million and 5.8 million Venezuelans fleeing the oppressive Maduro regime.  

Let’s put these numbers into context. Syria, since 2013, has witnessed an exodus of approximately 6.3 million people due to war and oppression from the Assad regime and the Muslim extremist group Daesh. Moreover, the Syrian diaspora is often considered the worst man-made disaster since World War II. Sadly, and shocking at the same time, Venezuela is not too far from that troubling distinction. In fact, the exodus in Venezuela has probably surpassed similar diaspora in Afghanistan and South Sudan—since 2013 and beyond.

So how bad is it in Venezuela? Reports from journalists document that certain cities are essentially zombie towns, resembling the hit TV series The Walking Dead, where shattered people walk along the streets malnourished, sick, yearning in any possible manner to find food, basic medicine, antibiotics, toilet paper, diapers—much less basic human rights such as safety, security, and freedom of speech. This is what happens when an economy is in total chaos, destroyed by the naiveté of a controlled economy, price controls, and the nationalization of private industries (raw socialism) and its poisonous venom against free markets, individual liberty, and the dignified pursuit of happiness and freedom. 

Assessing Venezuela should no longer be a foreign policy issue of conservative or liberal ideology. It is time the crisis is be seen through the lens of what is right or wrong. The U.S. administration and other Latin American and European countries are reluctant to let Venezuela free fall into a 20th century version of Cuba Lite. Permitting Venezuela to survive under Maduro will exacerbate a contagion of instability not only in Latin America but also in the U.S. due to Venezuela’s insistence on providing safe havens for the drug trade cartels and narco terrorist groups such as the Colombian ELN.

But before we hear resistance from those claiming that we should respect Venezuela’s sovereignty coupled with the shallow argument that the Venezuelan crisis, diaspora, and precarious instability must be solved by Venezuelans themselves, imagine if the U.S applied the same school of thought during World War I and World War II. In this instance, isolationism isn’t the answer; as the proverb so wisely states no man or woman is an island…well the same philosophy can be applied to nation states.

The stakes are high in Venezuela. A country that once believed in democracy has morphed into a repressive regime. A country that was considered one of the top 10 richest countries in the 1950s, an example of  stability and opportunity in Latin America is now mired with inflation exceeding 1.7 million (per The Economist), a GDP that has been sliced and diced by half (50%) in a rapid fashion, a country that was once the 20th happiest country as recent as 2013 (according to the World Happiness Report) is now experiencing a total annihilation of health care services where babies are deprived of basic nourishment and the child mortality rate has skyrocketed to alarming figures. For what is worth, these days Venezuela ranks 102nd on that same happiness report (2018).

Amazingly, there is a glimmer of hope in Venezuela. The alternative shaped in the National Assembly leader, Mr. Guaido, is the answer for Venezuela’s short-term future. Several Latin American countries, the majority of Western Europe, and the U.S. are on the side of democracy and free and fair elections by declaring Mr. Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela until new free and fair elections are held. This is the right course of action, not just for the sake of politics, but for compassion and humanity in Venezuela.

Just a few days ago, the illegitimate Venezuelan President Mr. Maduro blocked the much-needed humanitarian aid such as food and medicine from entering the borders of Venezuela. In response to this horrid gesture, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio described the Maduro regime not as a government but a criminal enterprise. Senator Rubio is correct. It is now clear that Venezuela is no longer being led by politicians. Sadly, the country is now being governed by thugs, criminals, and narcos.

Oscar Montealegre
Oscar Montealaegre is Diplomatic Courier’s Latin America Correspondent and the Founder of Kensington Eagle, an investment firm that specializes in private companies and real estate in the U.S. and Colombia.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.