Venezuela brief history. Hugo Chavez was elected president in April 1999. He served the longest consecutive term of any president in Venezuela history but also used state power to change the constitution to eliminate term limits. He claimed this was best for the socialist reforms he implemented. Upon his death in March of 2013, Vice President Nicolas Maduro assumed the presidency. In a special election held that April 2013, Maduro was officially elected. Maduro was a bus driver and union leader and advanced under Chavez to be elected to the National Assembly in 2000.
Hugo Chavez implemented many socialist programs using the riches from oil revenue. Venezuela has more oil reserves than nearly any other country on earth. Chavez described himself as a Marxist and was friends with the Castros in Cuba, Dan Ortega in Nicaragua and socialist Rafael Correa in Ecuador. During the mid 2000’s with record oil revenue, Chavez expanded social programs, nationalized key industries and expanded social offerings for the poor including medicalcare, education and housing. As the price of oil dropped these programs proved unsustainable and increased crime and poverty ensued. Chavez had endorsed Maduro to be president shortly before his death from cancer. Maduro kept the socialist platform to gain support since law required an election within 30 days of the death of Chavez. His authoritarian rule was criticized locally and internationally and protests grew due to lack of food, medicine and basic services. Maduro’s nephews were caught smuggling cocaine into Miami in November 2015 and convicted in 2017. The investigation found evidence that Maduro was backing and benefiting from the effort and evidence of money laundering to help pay for his reelection was confirmed. Under Maduro’s economic policies Venezuela has seen economic chaos ensue. Inflation topped 1,000,000%, one of the worst cases of hyperinflation in history.
Nearly 2 million Venezuelans have fled the country this year bringing the total of 3.6 million since 2016. Under the The Cartagena Declaration on Refugees in 1984, these people are legal refugees. In September 2018, thirteen regional countries met to discuss the situation and Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay signed a regional “Plan of Action.” Mexico, Brazil, Dominican Republic and Guatemala expressed support but did not sign. Under the declaration, participating countries will allow the controlled entry of Venezuelan migrants. The US has seen an increase in 88% of Venezuelans seeking migration to the US.
Costa Rica has decided to grant a limited number of slots to asylum seekers from Venezuela. A few neighboring countries have also agreed to take these refugees. In a time when we are seeing an increase in leftist leaning in the central region of the hemisphere, helping with the Venezuelan crisis is something the Costa Rican government has determined is in the best interest of the region. Until President Maduro is out of office, the situation in Venezuela is not likely to improve. Even if he allowed key international oil companies in to help with joint venture oil processing, it has been estimated that it will take 10 years to get back to the production capacity before Chavez and Maduro decided to interfere with oil production in Venezuela.