Venezuela: A Humanitarian Crisis

Venezuela, once the wealthiest nation in South America because of its oil, now faces the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory. United Nations refugee officials said Nov. 8 over 3 million refugees and immigrants had fled their homeland. Most have crossed over to Colombia. However, New Jersey is one of the five states which has the lion’s share of its immigrants in the USA.

Preview image above is of Venezuelan migrants in a truck crossing the mountains to Colombia (Federico Escobar NY Times)

Venezuela has now gained more attention in the U. S. as Trump has issued an ultimatum to Venezuela’s military: “Either join with the US-led effort to depose Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, or suffer immense consequences.” Trump has finally met a strongman he does not like. However, the administration has refused to grant legal status to these immigrants fleeing to our country. Sen. Bob Menendez introduced a bill in December that would grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans – so far to no avail. 

To understand the gravity of the situation, inflation in the USA in 2018 was 2.54%, whereas in Venezuela it hit 80,000% in 2018. Lis Torrealba, who fled the country explains, “The money in our country, I can’t buy anything, if there’s something you need. You would need a stack of money to even pay for a tomato. Food, medicine and even gasoline are scarce commodities.”

The hope is that Maduro’s troops will defect and support Juan Guaidó the US-backed challenger who likely would have been its current president were it not for fraudulent elections. The generals and colonels made wealthy by Maduro are so far resisting.

The opposition and Mr. Maduro are at loggerheads over the delivery of humanitarian aid, which Mr. Maduro’s government has blockaded at the border with Colombia. “We are all scared it will get ugly between Maduro and Guaidó,” said Norma López, Her neighbors, she said, told her the government was “going to take away their teenagers to defend Maduro.” 

New Jersey has the fifth highest number of Venezuelans living in the USA. Of the top  US 101 municipalities with the most residents born in Venezuela, New Jersey has four: Singac, Lopatcong, Wood-Ridge and River Edge.

As Mark Di Ionno writes in the Star-Ledger, “United States has sent $46 million in aid to the countries absorbing the desperate Venezuelans. Some will say that’s not enough. Others will say it’s not our problem. Do we have a human obligation to help?” In New Jersey The International Rescue Committee is helping. Others in our state can provide more assistance to the refugees.

What we do NOT need is Trump, who seeking to divert attention from his own multiple problems, makes veiled threats to send in U. S. troops. What he can do is grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans.

A rally in Caracas (Yuri Escobar -AP)

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