LAGRANGE, Ohio — The Writing for the Migration Policy Institute researchers, Diego Chaves-González and Carlos Echeverría-Estrada, stated that more than 5 million refugees and migrants, including women and children, had left Venezuela as of June 2020. The great majority of around 4 million of the refugees and migrants migrated to other Latin American and Caribbean countries. This mass migration happened because of the political and economic crises occurring in the country; the BBC reported that political tensions had been rising due to soaring hyperinflation rates, power cuts and shortages of food and medicine.
To help mitigate the migrant and refugee crisis in Venezuela, Cuban Senator Robert Menendez proposed S.Res.375, which will support Venezuelan women and children as vulnerable populations in this crisis.
S.Res.375: Nature and Purpose
S.Res.375 is a “simple resolution,” which only needs approval in the Senate and does not carry the force of law. Currently housed in the Committee on Foreign Relations, once approved, Soncerria Berry, the current Secretary of the Senate, will attest to it. After this process, the Congressional Record will publish the resolution. The purpose of this bipartisan supported resolution is to support efforts to strengthen “protection, assistance and solutions for Venezuelan women and children,” who experience food insecurity, femicide and other gender-related crimes and lack of access to basic entitlements of shelter, jobs and health care, along with restrictions on movement and other issues.
This resolution supports the women and children of Venezuela by calling on other countries to grant temporary protected status to them just as have Colombia and the United States. According to the American Immigration Council, temporary protected status provides nationals of foreign countries refuge as these countries are experiencing problems making it difficult or unsafe for deportation to their home countries. This aspect of the resolution addresses the migrant and refugee crisis this population is currently facing. It also encourages governments already hosting Venezuelan women and children to improve their quality of life by ensuring that essential civil social services including health care, shelter and food assistance are provided to this vulnerable population. The same recommendation also applies to international and non-governmental organizations that provide assistance.
The Migrant Crisis in Venezuela
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), around 5 million migrants and refugees have left Venezuela due to ongoing socio-political and economic crises. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has reported that conflicts in leadership exacerbated these crises. Nicolas Maduro, the socialist leader of Venezuela, caused the economic crisis due to hyperinflation leading to extreme poverty. He has been in leadership in Venezuela for over two decades. In May 2018, Maduro won an intractably disputed election, before Juan Guaido declared himself president because of a constitutional provision eight months later in January 2019. Guaido is the leader of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s legislative branch. Supported by differing international parties, this has created an ongoing conflict contributing to migration.
How the International Organization for Migration has Helped
The International Organization for Migration has assisted Latin American governments in helping Venezuelan migrants by providing humanitarian assistance including emergency kits, health care and food, and also initiating research on the situation among other essential survival resources.
The Role of Venezuela’s Economic Contraction in the Refugee Crisis
An avoidable economic contraction that Venezuelan leadership manufactured caused the refugee crisis in Venezuela. Researchers at the Brookings Institute asserted that since 2013, Venezuela’s economy has contracted by 65%, the largest contraction outside of the war in 45 years as of 2019. According to the report, this resulted in 4.6 million Venezuelans or 16% of the population leaving the country. Economic contraction is the decline of the economy as a whole. Qualitatively, Venezuela has experienced a decline in oil outflow that includes falling levels of oil production even with a high dependence on oil for exports as oil sales account for 99% of export earnings.
Several reports provide clues as to which people are leaving Venezuela and where they are going. The Council on Foreign Relations has reported that asylum seekers have left the country due to political persecution and violence along with other populations including refugees and migrants. According to a 2020 Statista report, most migrants have escaped to Colombia and Peru. About 1,780,486 Venezuelans migrated to the former country and 941,889 emigrated to the latter.
Auxiliary Support of the Resolution
Interested individuals may contact their senators to provide feedback on this bill to increase awareness. In addition, several nongovernmental organizations are currently working to help women and children of Venezuela, including Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Interested individuals may actively participate in sponsoring a child (Save the Children), volunteering for the IRC or participating in political advocacy efforts.
Despite the migrant crisis in Venezuela, S.Res.375 provides practical steps forward for women and children in Venezuela. The fact that other Latin American countries are helping the vulnerable population also shows great support for this group in the days ahead.
– Ozichukwu Ojukwu