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Use Venezuelan Assets to Help Venezuelan Refugees

Mass Displacement and the Responsibility to Pay

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at a plantation in La Victoria, June 2019 Reuters

In Venezuela, a humanitarian crisis is coming to a boil. The country’s GDP has shrunk by double digits over the past few years, annual inflation runs to more than 80,000 percent, and 90 percent of the population lives in poverty. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself the country’s legitimate president in January, and more than 40 countries formally recognized him as such—but he has since lost steam. With each passing day, the opposition’s chances of ousting President Nicolás Maduro fade.

As the instability in their country deepens, Venezuelans flee in droves, precipitating a refugee crisis for which there is no precedent in the Western Hemisphere. An estimated 3.4 million Venezuelans are living abroad, the majority having fled since 2015. More than 1.2 million Venezuelans have settled in neighboring Colombia; another half million live in Peru, while Ecuador hosts a quarter million.

These refugee-receiving countries have deep-seated problems of their own. Colombia, despite its booming economy, remains the second-most unequal country in Latin America, trailing only Honduras. For more than 50 years, its government has fought a low-intensity civil war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist guerilla group. Colombia is second only to Syria in terms of the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs): today, some 5.7 million Colombians are forced to live away from their homes because of the conflict. The landmark peace deal brokered with the FARC in 2016 is unraveling. Colombian President Iván Duque, a former right-wing senator who opposed the deal, has stalled its implementation and is now calling for the renegotiation of some of its key clauses. Violence is re-escalating in the Colombian countryside, and there are worrying signs that the country might relapse into a full-scale conflict.

In Colombia, the impact of the refugee crisis can be seen everywhere. In Bogotá, the capital city, thousands of Venezuelan families, many with newborns and toddlers, live on the banks of sewage canals. In border towns such as Arauca and Maicao, which already had some of the highest

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