Venezuela, which is the United States’ third-largest source of crude oil, is going through an economic and humanitarian crisis. But the average U.S. citizen seems either unaware or unfazed by the country’s situation.
Americans are often characterized as being uninformed about international affairs. A recent survey conducted by National Geographic shows a “deficit in knowledge regarding foreign relations, geography and other global issues” among young Americans.
When it comes to what is happening in Venezuela, U.S. citizens should start paying more attention, for the nation’s crisis is directly affecting the United States.
Even though the country is 2,000 miles away, the effects of the crisis can still be felt here. Venezuela’s economic crisis could lead to an increase in oil prices across the United States. Currently, the world’s largest oil reserves reside in Venezuela. As production declines, the United States will need to shift to another country for oil imports which will potentially raise gas prices.
The United States prides itself on fighting against countries that do not value or uphold democracy. The Venezuelan government has dismantled its country’s democracy. There is no longer a separation of powers or free and fair elections in Venezuela according to the U.S. State Department. The government even banned opposition leaders from running in the recent presidential election.
As the United States takes steps toward sanctioning the Venezuelan government, other foreign powers have offered a helping hand. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, China has lent Venezuela $60 billion since 2001, and ties between Russia and Venezuela have also been strengthened.
The United States has more to worry about than just the relationships Venezuela has with other countries. The two nations are members of many of the same international organizations. With this in mind, what happens in Venezuela will impact the international affairs of the United States.
Both countries belong to the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank among many others.
Beyond the repercussions of Venezuela’s condition in the United States, the Obama and Trump administrations have issued multiple sanctions on the South American nation. These measures include economic sanctions as well as others targeted at specific government officials.
Another aspect of Venezuela’s situation that is affecting the United States is the displacement of its people. According to the International Organization of Migration, nearly one million Venezuelans have fled the country in the last two years. While the majority of the migrants are fleeing to neighboring Latin American countries, the United States is not immune to the migration. The population of Venezuelans in the United States has increased by 14 percent from 2015 to 2017, according to the International Organization of Migration.
While the economic and political effects of this turmoil are important, the main reason Americans should care about Venezuela’s crisis is the detrimental impact it is having on fellow human beings. Venezuela’s political and economic crisis has turned into a humanitarian one.
Venezuelans lack basic needs and are struggling to survive. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2016, 85 percent of basic medicines were unavailable or difficult to obtain in Venezuela. More than 87 percent of the population didn't have enough money to purchase essential foods, and 30 percent of children were malnourished.
In addition to a lack of basic needs and resources, Venezuela is also plagued by high rates of violence. In 2016, the country experienced its highest-ever homicide rate at 91.8 homicides per 100,000 residents.
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is becoming increasingly worse, and it’s far from over. It is imperative that U.S. citizens remain informed on the country’s situation. Not only is it impacting them, but it is affecting the lives of millions of Venezuelans.