SEATTLE, Washington — The current state of Venezuela is fueled by crises. Political and socio-economic issues threaten the well-being and safety of millions of citizens. As of 2017, the poverty rate rose to 87%, but due to hyperinflation that occurred in 2018, the United Nations imagines this statistic to be even higher today. As the Venezuelan economy continues to suffer, international organizations and countries recognize the struggling nation’s need for humanitarian aid. The VERDAD Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator Robert Menendez in April 2019, aims to address poverty in Venezuela, among several other related issues.
The VERDAD Act
The bill’s acronym stands for Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance and Development. To understand the current landscape of Venezuela, it is important to recognize the history of how a once prosperous nation nearly collapsed. From 1958 to 1989, Venezuela was known to have a well-functioning political system, one of the best in Latin America. Soon after, the country met increasing political and economic pressures that threatened its stability.
Venezuela relied heavily on its major oil industry, and in 2014, oil prices were averaging $100 per barrel. The country lacked sufficient economic diversity to handle the plummet in oil prices in 2015. As a result, the nation faced the devastating effects of the crashing oil industry and fell into a recession. Economic instability also derived from poor fiscal management during the presidencies of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. In the case of authoritarian leader Maduro, corruption is also a major factor in exacerbating the collapsing socio-economic conditions in the country.
The Future of Venezuela
A report by the Center for Preventative Action predicts a few possible scenarios for the future of Venezuela. These scenarios include the continued decline and unrest, rebellion and a coup, transition into democracy or complete collapse and anarchy. The report also notes several suggestions for addressing the situation in Venezuela, such as increasing pressure on the Maduro regime, delivering aid through the use of the military or even launching a military operation. While these are suggestions, the ultimate goal is to help stabilize the debilitated and failing nation.
The VERDAD Act seeks to allocate $400 million in aid for humanitarian relief to the Venezuelan people. While addressing the issue of poverty in Venezuela, the United States would collaborate with partners to provide relief assistance to the most vulnerable first. It is important to note that the bill would require none of the funds to be controlled or in the hands of the Maduro regime, in an effort to avoid mismanagement and corruption during the aid process.
Some of the bill’s provisions that directly target poverty in Venezuela include providing nutritious food, hygiene supplies and public health services. While aid is certainly directed toward people and communities in Venezuela, portions of the funds would also be reserved for Venezuelans who have already migrated to escape the national crisis. As of 2018, disaster and high levels of poverty in Venezuela have caused around three million people to leave the country, and surrounding nations are reaching their limits to adequately take in more refugees.
During this economic and political crisis, the United States, as well as 57 other countries, recognize Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela. However, Maduro still has much of the power consolidated. While poverty in Venezuela seems like an insurmountable challenge to face, humanitarian-focused legislation has the potential to empower Venezuelans and rebuild the once-prosperous nation.