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Crisis in the Andes: Why Venezuela is Different

by Kelley Reardon

As part of the Wednesdays at the Center series, Keith Mines to give a lecture named “Crisis in the Andes: Why Venezuela is Different”. Mines currently serves as Director of Andean Affairs in the State Department with responsibility for managing U.S. relations with Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

 

The John Hope Franklin Center and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies co-hosted the event, which discussed what makes the Venezuelan crisis different from other crises.

 

During the 1970s oil was discovered, and Venezuela became one of the largest oil producers in the world. Mines spoke about how there have been political problems embedded in the Venezuelan government since the rise of oil production. Mines describes the current conflict as “one of the few crises in the world today that is completely unnecessary,” and as “a purely self-inflicted wound.”

Patrick Duddy and Keith Mines take questions from the audience.

Keith Mines and Patrick Duddy field questions from the audience.

Venezuela eventually succumbed to intense corruption, as Mines stated, “[there has been] no period in history where you have that much corruption, on that scale, by one entity.” Mines pointed out that it was “unprecedented” that so many Venezuelans fled the country despite its recent status as middle class. He also stated that it was “quite an inspiring case of other countries taking in the Venezuelans that have been fleeing.”

 

Venezuela’s government became so embedded with corruption that it now relies on its own dysfunctional economy as a requirement to maintain political control. Mines stated that it is “a system and web to keep as many people dependent on the government as possible.” Meanwhile, presidential controversies between different leaders such as Juan Guaidó (partially recognized interim President of Venezuela) and Nicolás Maduro (disputed President of Venezuela) contribute to the complexity of the situation.

 

Two main features that set Venezuela apart from other crises include its regional support and the fact that other countries are so willing to intervene. Another main feature is the role of American policy in the crisis. There is no American military involvement. The Venezuelan crisis will require time and patience to mend. Mines believes that “these things don’t last forever… it’s not a normal way to live for them or for anyone else.”