The economic depression in Venezuela is in its fourth year, and there appears to be little optimism for a recovery in the near future.
Although a fall in oil prices triggered the economic crisis, the recent recovery in global oil prices have done little to bring the economy back to life.
Further exacerbating the situation is rampant hyperinflation that makes routine business transactions, like purchasing groceries, nearly impossible with the bolívar.
Venezuela is also in the midst of a violent political crisis.
A year ago, President Nicolás Maduro took measures to remove any challenge to his party’s authority in government such as packing the courts with loyal supporters and replacing the opposition-controlled National Assembly with a substitute legislature, the National Constituent Assembly. This new legislative body is wholly controlled by his allies, including his wife, Cilia Flores.
The combination of economic catastrophe and political turmoil has led to a growing migration crisis with hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have already fled their country. While Venezuela’s neighbors Colombia and Brazil have taken the majority of the migrants, other countries in South America are taking steps to alleviate some of the pressure.
Chile’s democratic responsibility visa
Chile announced last week that it would provide a so-called “democratic responsibility” visa to Venezuelans.
But for many Venezuelans, the costs involved in getting the visa are too high. As Philip Sanders and Noris Soto reported for Bloomberg,
“Venezuelans must apply for the visa at the Chilean consulates in Venezuela, with their passport. Many Venezuelans don’t have a passport and would need to pay fixers hundreds of dollars to get one. Moreover, according to a Foreign Office website, only one Chilean consulate in Venezuela can deal with visas, and that is in Caracas. At present, Venezuelans can use their identity cards to come to Chile, though they need a passport to obtain a work visa.”
However, these barriers did not stop a group of eager Venezuelans from gathering outside the Chilean consulate in Caracas and Balívar in the hopes of learning more about the new visa.
Desde las 7 am de ayer domingo, personas hacen cola (y durmieron) afuera del consulado de Chile en Caracas. Esperan ser atendidos hoy lunes porque alguien les informó allí que no lo harían pic.twitter.com/L2q9A7EtTs
— Lorena Evelyn Arráiz (@lorearraiz) April 16, 2018
Looming migrant crisis
Presidential elections are scheduled to take place in Venezuela in one month. They are not expected to be free or fair and President Maduro will almost undoubtedly win in the official count. Many leaders in Latin America plus Canada and the United States announced that they will not recognize the results of the May elections.
Mass protests has been the common reaction to the sham elections that have recently taken place. The government typically responds to these demonstrations with violence. If this cycle repeats itself, then additional migration out of the country is likely to follow.
Visa programs like the Chilean democratic responsibility visa will alleviate some pressure for Venezuelans wanting to leave their country and who can afford to receive the visa. Ultimately such programs will do little should the nation of more than 30 million begin to collapse into internal conflict causing the rising flow of migrants to turn into a cascade.