The Venezuelan migrant crisis is one of the largest refugee crises in the world, with nearly 8 million people displaced since 2014. That’s more than 20 percent of the country’s entire population.
As University of Denver professor Francisco Rodríguez explains in the latest episode of The Pivot, our global affairs podcast, the crisis is “predominantly, if not exclusively, economic migration.” Sanctions imposed by the United States, he says, have been a significant contributing factor behind the economic collapse that is driving migration out of Venezuela.
“People are leaving Venezuela because of material living conditions,” Rodríguez says, with food insecurity among the primary threats facing Venezuelans.
The Failure of ‘Maximum Pressure’ Against Maduro
Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy sees boom-bust cycles due to the fluctuation of global energy prices. But sanctions imposed by the Trump administration barring Caracas from access to U.S. financial markets and banning imports from the state oil company PdVSA only deepened Venezuela’s economic contraction, preventing a rebound once oil prices shot back up.
This was all part of John Bolton’s “maximum pressure” campaign against President Nicolás Maduro. Bolton’s push for regime change against Venezuela’s autocratic leader ultimately failed. The aim, Rodríguez explains, was “to convince the military to turn on Maduro,” but in the end, Venezuela’s armed forces “rallied around” their president, who has since consolidated control.
“Trying to micromanage the Venezuelan military from an office in the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, DC, is just absurd.”Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodríguez
While regional states led by Colombia have long borne the burden of receiving migrants from Venezuela, Venezuelans are increasingly seeking refuge in the U.S., where the broader migrant crisis has transformed from being an issue affecting southern border states to one that’s now impacting liberal urban centers like New York City.
But what’s largely left out of the political discourse here in the U.S. is why people are choosing to leave Venezuela en masse and the role of U.S. policy in contributing to this great exodus.
In this episode, we take a deep look at the broader political and economic crisis that Venezuela has been experiencing for more than two decades and is driving the ongoing migrant crisis. We unpack the roots of the leftist Chavismo style of politics and populist authoritarianism in Venezuela and the impact of the U.S. sanctions regime on the country’s politics and society.
Francisco Rodríguez of the University of Denver joins host Arif Rafiq to discuss Venezuela’s long political and economic crises, the drivers of its instability, the role played by the U.S., its links to the migrant crisis, and the potential for a way out.
- Francisco Rodríguez, Rice Family Professor of the Practice of International and Public Affairs, University of Denver, Josef Korbel School (@frrodriguezc)
Francisco Rodríguez is the Rice Family Professor of the Practice of International and Public Affairs at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Rodríguez is a Venezuelan economist with decades of experience in public service, academia, and the private sector. Prior to joining Korbel, he taught economics and public policy at the University of Maryland, Wesleyan University, and the University of Notre Dame. Rodríguez has held prominent positions in the public and private sector, including head of the Economic and Financial Advisory of the Venezuelan National Assembly (2000-2004), head of the Research Team of the United Nations’ Human Development Report Office (2008-2011) and chief Andean economist of Bank of America (2011-2016). He has been a visiting researcher at the International Monetary Fund and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine.
He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.