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The panel included Juan Andrés Mejía, Deputy to the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diego Moya-Ocampos, Principal Political Risk Analyst at IHS Markit and Associate Fellow of Canning House, and Dr Alejandro Arenas-Pinto, Senior Clinical Research Associate at UCL’s Institute for Global Health. The event was chaired by Graham Jones MP, Chair of the APPG for Venezuela. Introductory words were given by Mark Menzies MP, Chair of the APPG for Latin America, and Cristina Cortes, CEO of Canning House.
Diego Moya-Ocampos described how in the last few years some 3 million Venezuelans (around 10% of the population) have been forced to emigrate. What started as an economic, social and political crisis has evolved into a full-blown humanitarian and migration crisis. Moya attributed this to years of epic mismanagement by the government and widespread corruption. He emphasised that Venezuelans accessing humanitarian aid is critical in the short-term, and unpicking the complex patronage system that ensures military and government elites’ continued support of Maduro is essential to ending the crisis.
Dr Alejandro Arenas-Pinto spoke about the impact of the crisis on public health, in Venezuela as well as in its neighbouring countries. Venezuela is the only country to have a recorded increase (365%) of malaria cases following a successful programme to control the transmission of the disease. The health system is collapsing, which has resulted in an increase in other acute infectious diseases as well as chronic diseases such as HIV. The mass migration of Venezuelans into countries such as Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador poses a public health problem for the region as a whole.
Juan Andrés Mejía joined in the discussion remotely from Venezuela. As Deputy to the National Assembly and Political Coordinator of Voluntad Popular, an opposition party, he stated he is working to bring about free and fair elections as soon as possible. In his opinion, central to achieving this is a structured negotiation with the Maduro administration, with clear objectives and a deadline. Mejía welcomed the position of the Lima Group, US and EU countries in recognising Juan Guaidó as interim president, but stressed that the National Assembly is not a puppet government to its larger regional neighbours – it is the legitimate elected body in Venezuela that is taking the necessary steps to restore democracy to the country.
An animated Q&A followed, with more questions about the various possible paths to a peaceful solution, the politicisation of humanitarian aid, the role of other armed actors and the potential role the international community can play in mitigating the health crisis, among others.
Graham Jones MP thanked the speakers for their contributions, the audience for their engagement and Canning House for organising the event. Mark Menzies MP closed the event, calling for robust dialogue that will bring about free and fair elections in Venezuela.
Watch the full event here
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