The Walls of Venezuela: How Millions of Venezuelans are Trapped from Refuge

As reported by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), worldwide displacement has hit an all-time high. With instances like the Syrian War and the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, it is clear as to why people are fleeing their home nations with such avail. In the Americas, refugee movement is unfortunately up 12% in the last year. This is, in part, due to Venezuela. As food shortages and political tensions rise, many Venezuelans have sought sanctuary in nations such as the United States of America, Colombia, and Brazil. However, the choice given to Venezuelans to flee has narrowed significantly over time, with Venezuela quickly becoming a cage which you can enter, but never leave. 

To begin, one significant problem facing potential refugees is the lack of resources available to immigrate. Besides the money needed to seek asylum, through the buying of plane tickets or transportation (and the lack of money available due to Venezuela’s rapid hyperinflation), one of the main concerns for Venezuelans wanting to legally emigrate is the access to passports. As shortages over the most basic necessities have become commonplace in Venezuela, one of the most concerning for those seeking refugee has been the shortage of paper and ink. Without these items, the Venezuelan passport printing industry has become standstill, with people both unable to get a passport and unable to renew their expired ones. Therefore, many who have tried to leave legally cannot without proper identification, made impossible to retrieve.

Another issue facing these displaced people is United States President Donald Trump. In the latest iteration of his contentious travel ban, Trump has spread the scope of his ban

Trumps’ restrictive actions towards Venezuelan immigrants has wrecked havoc on a nation where the majority of refugees flee to America.

to not just Muslim-majority nations, but also to Venezuela and North Korea. Inherently different from his prior ban, this legislation seems to have no definitive end.  The ban could be held up forever. In President Trump’s view, the ban is a decisive action against the government of Venezuela, which has been at odds with the United States dating all the way back to the rise of Hugo Chavez. However, it is quite clear that this ban will be doing much more harm towards the common people of Venezuela, and less against the likes of Nicolas Maduro and the upper echelon of communist elites. The United States is home to one of the biggest Venezuelan populations outside Venezuela, so it is clear that the implications of this ban are huge.

Finally, a major situation for many Venezuelans regarding their attempts to flee has been their political status. The United Socialist Party (PSUV) under Nicolás Maduro has made it a priority to silence dissidents, citing political disunity as the reason their nation is falling apart. This silencing has been placed on an international scale, with many anti-Maduro protesters unable to flee the nation due to their beliefs. For example, Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo López, leader of an anti-PSUV party, the Voluntad Popular, was restricted from leaving the country just last month, due to affiliation with her husband. Powerfully, Tintori exclaimed that “the prohibition to leave the county won’t silence the voice of Venezuela, won’t silence the voice of the Venezuelans, won’t silence my voice”. However, as Tintori was not able to reach her European destination, it seems as if her voice may just have to reach Europe some other way.

In all, it seems like a lose-lose situation for many of these refugees. To stay in Venezuela means political repression, starvation, and sickness. But to try to leave is an even greater struggle for many Venezuelans, with both external and internal forces pushing them to stay in squalor. Therefore, the question is a difficult one for these Venezuelans: stay and suffer, or leave and suffer. Either way, winning seems out of reach.

Edited by Benjamin Aloi