Joshua Curzon graduated from Bristol University in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in History. He co-founded The Venezuela Campaign in April 2018. Jamie Nugent is a Masters student in Public History at Queen’s University Belfast. He created The Venezuela Campaign during his undergraduate degree at Bristol.
Dear Ms. Mordaunt,
The time has come for urgent British action to help the people of Venezuela. The refugee crisis there is getting worse day by day with 2.3 million people already having fled and another 2 million predicted to leave soon. The refugee crisis is the largest ever experienced in Latin America and is on course to exceed that of Syria, to which Britain has provided very substantial support.
Some may feel that Venezuela is a small country far away of which we know little, but in the age of Brexit we have global interests and global ambitions. Venezuela was once the richest country in Latin America and sits on the largest oil reserves in the world. Since Chavez adopted the anti-market policies that have ruined Venezuela’s economy and led to destitution and misery for its people, Britain’s exports to Venezuela have declined by two thirds. The crisis threatens to destabilise the whole region.
Now is the time of the Venezuelan people’s greatest need. They will remember and appreciate Britain’s friendship and help if it is given today. Neighbouring countries which are having difficulties in coping with the refugee influx, such as Columbia, will also be grateful for our help.
It isn’t clear why we have not yet moved to provide support to the Venezuelan people. It could be because in Britain the Venezuelan crisis is largely discussed in the context of the Labour leadership’s support for the Venezuelan regime and its policies. Perhaps helping Venezuela is seen as a partisan move? If that is true we really need to move beyond such thinking. People are dying and need our help.
The Venezuela Campaign, a grassroots student-led body, would like to propose to you a five point plan to help the Venezuelan people. Venezuela qualifies for official development assistance so DFID could provide assistance from our aid budget.
Firstly, provide substantial assistance to neighbouring states such as Colombia to help them deal with the refugee crisis. This could involve a range of measures such as vouchers for refugees to purchase accommodation and food for a limited period.
Secondly, provide critical medicines whose current absence is leading to prolonged suffering and death in Venezuela. The refusal of the Maduro regime is a problem here, but not an insurmountable one. Delivery could be organised through local NGOs, who are adept in ensuring that vital supplies reach the right people.
Thirdly, heighten the pressure on the corrupt leaders of the regime. The US judicial system is already proceeding to prosecute a number of these, including various relatives of President Maduro, but we could do a lot more to help track down the billions that have been stolen, many of which will have likely flowed through London. As has been done in the case of Nigeria our aid budget could finance the City of London Police and others to undertake the specialist investigations that are required.
Fourthly, we should help civil society in Venezuela. One approach could be to focus on Spanish radio programming in support of democracy and accountable government. Similar ‘voice and accountability’ initiatives are supported by the UK aid programme in a variety of countries.
Fifthly, we should help Venezuelans in planning for post-dictatorship Venezuela. With hyperinflation due to reach 1 million percent according to the IMF and oil production falling to below 1947 levels due to regime incompetence, the end cannot be too far away. But coherent plans will be required to pull Venezuela out of crisis and back on the road to prosperity. British experts have a lot of expertise in this area and could make an important contribution.
We hope that you agree that this plan represents a realistic and achievable set of actions. It won’t solve the Venezuelan crisis overnight but it will help alleviate some of the worst problems, demonstrate British leadership and address the political problems that are at the root of the crisis.
Jamie Nugent & Joshua Curzon, on behalf of the Venezuela Campaign.