Voices from South America: the Venezuelan crisis

From the beginning of 2013, Venezuela is in a very serious political and economic crisis, capable of creating enormous social unrest within the country. It is fortunate to be able to interview Nelson Campos, a 31-year-old Venezuelan. He currently lives in Barranquilla, Colombia, but remains in constant contact with his country of origin, where his father lives. We asked him some questions about the situation in South America, much debated around the world in recent months. From a geopolitical point of view the context is complex and deserves in-depth analysis. Today we will try to clarify some aspects together.

Good morning Nelson, when was the last time you were in Venezuela? And what is your relationship with the country of origin?

I got out of Venezuela in the summer of 2002. I was born there and raised there right until we moved out: the first 14 years of my life. My dad went back a few years back and practically all my paternal side of the family still lives there.We got out because Chavez started talking more and more about children belonging to the State. The idea of usurping the role that parents play in raising children did not sit well with my parents. So after traveling for summer vacations to Colombia, they felt like they had to make that call for the wellbeing of my sister and me.

In your opinion, if today the voice was given to the Venezuelan people, who would actually win any elections: Maduro or Guaidó?

Honestly, I think that if you decided to run as a candidate, you would have a shot to take Maduro down in a head to head election. That does not mean he does not have support, is just that there is not enough support to win fair and square. In a free election against Guaidó, he would loose pretty bad.

What impact does the oil sector have on the geopolitical context?

The tricky thing about the situation in Venezuela is that you cannot just pump oil from the ground and sell it when you need money. In wiser and capable hands, that should make Venezuela something like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but what we get is just poverty while the official Regime got to sustain for a little while an unsustainable plan. The only thing Venezuela has right now for the International markets is oil. Venezuela does not produce “anything”, everything has to be bought by the oil money. But you cannot eat it and definitely it cannot cure you of an infection or a disease. It reminds me of the curse of King Midas. In a way, the oil sector – even when has been run in a highly inefficient way – gave the Regime time and means to prolong the inevitable: a country´s collapse. Without oil, the Maduro and Chavez saga would have ended a long time ago.

What kind of bond does China have with Venezuela?

We wish we could know for sure. One of the problems with a corrupt regime is that you do not get to know what goes behind closed doors. We could say for sure that China gave Venezuela bonds/cash in exchange for oil; what is difficult to say is if that oil has been delivered yet. There is a possible scenario of having Guaidó as president, Maduro gone and still needing to pay China with oil while the “oficialist” regime alredy spent all the money. Nobody knows for sure how deep that hole is.

Nicolas Maduro with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Sept. 2018

What is the perception that one has in South America of the attention that the world is placing on the Venezuelan situation?

There are different “camps”. The first one think that things are taking too long. That is the “Why Guaidó does not do anything?” camp. Then, you have the “Things require patience” camp; people who understand that some changes can take a while. And finally, you have the camp of “UN & OEA are terrible at their jobs”, the one that thinks that we could have ended this a lot sooner. I would put myself in that one. Maybe is the smallest group, but the situation in Venezuela proves that the International NGOs need to evaluate a lot of things if they truly want to be effective at their jobs.

How is the purchasing power of a normal family in Venezuela today?

It is hard to measure what “normal is” so I will give you a fact, so you can imagine the struggle of my countrymen. In Venezuela, the minimum wage is USD 2. Just for having some perspective, in Colombia, the minimum wage is roughly USD 240. Look at it this way, you need to work 3 months in Venezuela – if you get the minimum wage- to be able to buy a “Day pass” (6€) for public transportation in Rome.

People in Caracas, March 2019

You are currently in Colombia; as a neighboring country in recent months it has had to receive millions of migrants from Venezuela, how is the government of Bogotà facing this emergency?

I feel the government is taking care of the consequences more than resolving issues at the root. Just receiving everyone that crosses the border would not make the other problems go away, there is only a certain amount of people you can help without creating more – and sometimes worst- problems. The government needs to understand the impact it will make, whether they like it or not. When a hospital collapses and cannot take care of anyone due to a crowd of people coming, does not help anyone; you need an alternative. The situation needs to be as sustainable as possible because we do not know when is going to end.  It does not help my countrymen if people get tired of them because the situation becomes unbearable to both, the Venezuelan and the Colombian people.

On the Brazilian border, the situation is more impermeable, with Bolsonaro who has decided to deploy the army, do you confirm it?

Now, with the FARC back in business it makes sense to have military presence at the border. It is a well known fact they like to jump around the areas where the borders blur. Besides that,  it seems necessary to control what happens at the borders at all times; Colombia and Brazil are key logistical players in all this. If they show some toughness, Maduro´s regime will end up losing hope of turning things around.

Thank you very much Nelson, we hope to receive new updates from you soon.

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