Small Wars Journal

Venezuela’s Refugee Exodus is the Biggest Crisis in the Hemisphere

Venezuela’s Refugee Exodus is the Biggest Crisis in the Hemisphere by Ishaan Tharoor – Washington Post

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake shook the northern coast of Venezuela on Tuesday night, knocking items off supermarket shelves and causing tremors as far away as Bogota, the Colombian capital. Authorities reported no casualties.

But amid economic devastation and political havoc, the country is still feeling many other shocks. A popular satirical website tweeted that the earthquake was the result of a tectonic plate trying to flee Venezuela — a dark joke gesturing to the thousands of Venezuelans seeking to escape the country every day.

According to U.N. figures, some 2.3 million Venezuelans — about 7 percent of the population — have left their homeland over the past couple of years. Other estimates place the number at closer to 4 million.

The exodus is the consequence of severe economic deprivation and mounting desperation among Venezuelans. The country’s economy has shrunk by half in just five years, and inflation is nearing a staggering 1 million percent. Shortages of food and medicine have led to a crisis in public health, with once-vanquished diseases such as diphtheria and measles returning and the rate of infant mortality rising sharply. U.N. officials claim that some 1.3 million Venezuelans who left the country were “suffering from malnourishment.”

The vast scope of the crisis has drawn bleak parallels. “Comparisons with Syria’s refugee crisis — the worst man-made disaster since the second world war, with almost 6 million refugees out of a prewar population of 20 million — may be inexact,” noted an editorial in the Financial Times. “In terms of scale and raw numbers, however, they no longer seem entirely far-fetched.” …

Read on.