(Photo: Carlos Becerra – Bloomberg)
Now that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro seems to be closing all avenues for a peaceful resolution of his country’s crisis, the international community should put some serious pressure on him to allow a constitutional referendum this year. Otherwise, we may soon see a refugee crisis that will spill across the region.
With Caracas already the No. 1 murder capital in the world, Venezuela’s 720 percent annual inflation rate the highest in the planet, and the population increasingly desperate because of widespread food and medicine shortages, some analysts such as former U.S. State Department Latin American chief Roger Noriega are already warning that escalating violence in Venezuela could lead to a “Syrian-style” refugee crisis.
There could be hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Venezuelans seeking asylum in neighboring countries, they say. Already, more than 1.5 million have left Venezuela since late president Hugo Chavez started destroying the country in 1999, according to a 2014 study by the Central University of Venezuela.
Until now, the Obama administration, the European Union and Latin America’s democracies had been betting on a mediation effort between Maduro and the opposition, led by former Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. But that mediation effort has been a waste of time, as has been obvious for many months.
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