by Kellin McGowan (June 2021)


Nearly 5.5 million refugees and migrants have fled from Venezuela due to the country’s economic instability, famine, and violence.

Here are the Key Players: 

President Nicolás Maduro: Current president of Venezuela preceded by Hugo Chávez. During his tenure, President Maduro has overseen Venezuela’s economic downfall, quelled many protests using the military, stacked the court system with loyalists so as to limit the power of his perceived political opponents, and blocked foreign humanitarian aid from countries such as the U.S. The Nicaraguan economy’s failures has been viewed as one of the main contributing factors to its rampant crime.

Tribunal Supremo Justicia (The Supreme Tribunal of Justice): Highest court in Venezuela. This court has issued a series of controversial rulings during the Maduro administration that were met with intense public protest: in 2015, the Court blocked some elected officials from taking power; and, in 2017, the Court blocked one of Maduro’s opponents from taking part in their 2017 elections.  

Latin America, U.S.: Countries including, but not limited to, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, and the United States have welcomed migrants and refugees from Venezuela. Further, countries such as the U.S. have sent direct, monetary assistance to this region: since the 2017 U.S. financial year, the U.S. government has provided $865 million to alleviate the country’s humanitarian and economic crisis. The U.S,. Brazil, Colombia, and the European Union do not recognize Maduro’s administration, questioning the legitimacy of his election. The U.S. specifically advises its citizens against traveling to the region given the civil unrest and violence. 

Citizens: Maduro, who won his first election by 1 percentage point, was once relatively popular; however, given the country’s current state, 63%  of Venezuelans want him gone. This decreased support is a result of several deadly protests that have occurred under his administration, a failing economy, and violent crime that has ruined the lives of many Venezuelan families. 


Venezuela is in the midst of a political and humanitarian crisis stemming from governmental corruption and a failing economy. Certain Latin American countries have become safe havens for Venezuelans desiring to flee from the U.S. While the U.S. is accepting of refugees, a significant part of the country’s support has been monetary. 


Some of Venezuela’s problems started decades ago, even before the presidency of Maduro’s predecessor; however, the year 2014 represents the start of the country’s economic spiral. During this year, the country’s economy experienced a significant nosedive, leading to the country’s current crisis. 


Over 60% of Venezuelans say they go to bed hungry, and over 65% say they have lost 25 pounds in the past year. The economic crisis, then, is significant because of its widespread nature.

Equally as widespread is the violence. The most violent state, in the view of the United States, is the state of Miranda, followed by Bolivar. The U.S. State Department considers travel to Venezuela a Level 4 threat, the highest level threat on the department’s scale. 


Because of the Venezuelan government’s continued spending, a decrease in the price of oil, and political corruption, the economy plummeted and, consequently, most Venezuelans live in poverty. In fact, two years ago, 96% of Venezuelans lived in poverty, while 70% lived in what would be considered extreme poverty. Additionally, these very families are often the victims of crime. In 2019, there were over 16,000 murders. The breakdown of these numbers is significant: over 6,500 were a result of criminal homicide, 5,000 were a result of governmental violence, and the rest were inconclusive. 

So why is it so hard for Venezuelan refugees to find refuge? 

One of the largest displacement events in the world, the situation in Venezuela is significant. What makes this situation especially unfortunate is that the countries that generally accept these people—Argentina, Brazil, and Columbia, for example, are on the verge of oversaturation.