Venezuela Weekly: Humanitarian Emergency Front and Center

With most efforts at political change in Venezuela frustrated, attention has turned to Venezuela’s humanitarian emergency. On Wednesday, April 10, Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock briefed the U.N. Security Council. He stated that “there is a very real humanitarian problem in Venezuela.” He estimated that 7 million people (25% of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance. 3.7 are suffering from undernourishment, 1.9 require nutritional assistance, including 1.3 million under age 5. 2.8 million need health assistance, including 1.1 million under age 5. He pointed out that the U.N. has 400 staff in Venezuela, in every state, but have concentrated on the border states of Zulia, Táchira and Bolívar. He ended his address seeking support of the Security Council for three things: respect for “principled humanitarian action” that keeps political and humanitarian goals separate, more access on the part of the Venezuelan government, and more money to expand humanitarian programs. 

The sense that progress could be made with respect humanitarian aid was piqued last week by a deal brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). On Friday, March 29 they announced they had forged an agreement with both the Maduro government and the opposition to bring humanitarian aid into the country. This week, President of the ICRC Peter Maurer visited Venezuela for five days to meet with relevant partners. Mauro met with government officials including Nicolás Maduro to discuss how humanitarian aid would enter the country. He met with deputy Miguel Pizarro who leads the National Assembly’s special committee on humanitarian aid. In that meeting Maurer announced that the ICRC would double its staff in Venezuela

  • Human Rights Watch partnered with researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to compile a report on Venezuela’s humanitarian emergency based on interviews with 150 health care professionals as well as Venezuelans seeking healthcare in Colombia and Brazil. They found a health care system in collapse leading to outbreaks in preventable diseases such as measles, diphtheria and malaria. They also found that 80% of households are food-insecure and two thirds of people have lost weight. They recommend that the United Nations Secretary General publicly acknowledge that Venezuela is facing a complex humanitarian crisis and implement a commensurate humanitarian response. They also made recommendations to the World Health Organization, the U.S., European countries, and Lima Group members.
  • Two non-governmental organizations working in favor of HIV+ populations—ICASO of Canada and Acción Ciudadana Contral el Sida of Venezuela–updated their report on the “Triple Threat: The Resurgence of Epidemics, a Failed Public Health System and Global Indifference to the Venezuela Criss.” In it they argue that the current situation is even worse than what they predicted. They estimate that there were between 600-700 thousand cases of malaria in 2018 with 1,000 deaths.
  • Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.N. Samuel Moncada rejected humanitarian aid as “under cover operation with the threat of the use of force to incite a military uprising and generate a civil war.” He suggested that a better solution would be for the U.S. and U.K. to lift their economic blockade.

Negotiation

  • The 28 foreign ministers of the European Union met in Luxemburg on April 8. In that meeting the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini suggested that the 90 day limit for the International Contact Group is not set in stone but a designated movement for reflecting on whether it is worth continuing. There was general recognition that there had been more progress on the humanitarian front than the political front. Spanish Foreign Minister Joseph Borrel complained that in Europe there was not enough of sense of urgency regarding the situation in Venezuela.
  • Both the opposition and Maduro government officials expressed the disposition to continue meeting with the ICG.
  • Ivan Briscoe of the International Crisis Group writes that when you get close there is less bravado, more malaise and more pragmatism within each political faction than what is publicly put forward.
  • Michael Penfold suggests there has not been at transition yet because there has yet been an attractive enough offer to those in power.
  • Both Dimitris Pantoulas and Francisco Alfaro have argued that any transition will need some sort of power-sharing agreement.

Migration

  • On April 8, representatives from 14 countries met in Quito to address technical aspects of Venezuelan migration. This followed meetings in September and November. In this third meeting the group agreed to continue to develop coordinated solutions and to hold another meeting in July, organized by Argentina. The final declaration once again steered clear of the issue of refugee status (see September 5 Venezuela Weekly for background.)
  • UNICEF estimates that in 2019 1.1 million Venezuelan children will need access to basic services in the region as a result of the migration crisis. They called for regional governments to prioritize children’s needs and seek joint regional solutions.
  • Refugees International has said the hardening of border controls in the region means that ever more Venezuelan migrants are recurring to criminal groups to enter host countries.

U.S. Congress

  • Rep. David Cicilline’s Bill prohibiting military intervention in Venezuela without congressional approval made it out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee without major amendments and could be headed to a floor vote.
  • Not generally noticed about the bipartisan VERDAD Act making its way through the U.S. Senate is that it states that “direct, credible negotiations…represent the best opportunity to reach a solution to the Venezuelan crisis.”

Economy

  • Venezuela reported production of 900k barrels per day in March, a notable decline from February, likely the effect of U.S. sanctions and power outages.

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news digest that is brief yet highlights concrete information. Did I miss something important or get something wrong? Let me know at [email protected]