Venezuela Update event

  • Constance Malleret

On Thursday 19th July, Canning House held an event to discuss the situation in Venezuela, following the 20th May elections which saw president Nicolas Maduro remain in power, despite widespread condemnation from the international community of the election as undemocratic.

We welcomed an expert panel to discuss different aspects of the political, economic and humanitarian crisis: Diego Moya-Ocampos, Principal Political Risk Analyst at IHS Markit; Carlos Bellorin, Principal Petroleum Analyst at IHS Markit also; Dr Alejandro Arenas-Pinto, Senior Clinical Research Associate at UCL’s Institute for Global Health; and Luisa Feline Freier, Assistant Professor of Social and Political Sciences at Universidad del Pacifico (Peru). Cristina Cortes, Canning House CEO, chaired the event.

Diego Moya-Ocampos began by presenting the political situation in the country. Following the 20th May election, a political solution is unlikely to be reached, as Maduro's government is not interested in dialogue. Regime change will not happen while the government continues to have the means to keep the security apparatus afloat. Carlos Bellorin then spoke on the question of oil production. Although Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, production has been plunging after years of mismanagement, with state-owned company PDVSA renouncing contracts.

The following presentations then focused on the humanitarian aspect of the crisis. While noting the lack of reliable data, Alejandro Arenas-Pinto spoke of the resurgence of diseases such as measles and polio, as well as the surge in cases of malaria, as proving the breakdown of the system. The situation can but get worse due to lack of access to care and medicine shortages, slowly becoming a threat to the whole region. Feline Freier then discussed the migration crisis. Again, there is a lack of reliable data, but the number of Venezuelans to have left their country reaches the millions. Latin American countries have proved fairly welcoming, with the creation of special visas for example, although this may change as numbers keep increasing. The question of Venezuelans' status as migrants or refugees hangs in the air, with different governments and organisations recognising different definitions of 'refugee'.

Cristina Cortes then opened the floor to questions. Some members of the audience, Venezuelans, shared their own experience of the crisis. A representative from the British Parliament noted that the issue is being discussed here in the UK, with members of parliament putting pressure on the government to give a response. Questions touched upon what it would take to elicit a stronger response from the international community, and what can be done to help from the UK.

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