On Tuesday evening, students and professors filed into the Gund Gallery Community Foundation Theater to hear Moises Rendon, associate director and associate fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., share his insights about the political situation in Venezuela.
Sponsored by the Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD) in partnership with the Latino/a studies program, the event, entitled “Venezuela: Finding a Pathway Back to Democracy,” offered Rendon a platform to answer questions from audience members and the discussion moderator, Assistant Director of CSAD and Assistant Professor of Political Science Nancy Powers.
As an associate director of CSIS, Rendon, originally from Caracas, Venezuela, participates in think-tanks and discussions that seek to frame policy regarding international affairs. He hopes to draw international attention to the present situation in Venezuela because, by his prediction, approximately 8.2 million people will have fled Venezuela between 2016 and 2020. By comparison, the Syrian crisis has produced 5.5 million refugees.
Before the discussion, Rendon shared a short video from the CSIS providing background on the humanitarian crisis: The authority of President Nicolás Maduro has been in question since his controversial re-election. Since that time, 54 countries have recognized the legitimacy of Juan Guaidó who, as the President of the National Assembly, has adopted the position of acting president.
Rendon mentioned the role that external agents play on the political and economic situation. He argued that the immense effect of Venezuelan resources and immigration ought to draw international attention, especially given the effect of the country’s future on its Latin American neighbors.
Visiting Assistant Professor of History Pedro Cantisano attended the lecture and invited Rendon to speak in his Modern Latin America (HIST 121) class. “Because he has access to policy-makers, to diplomats, to politicians, to even people in the Venezuelan diaspora, he is able to portray the situation not only as one that is about an economic crisis and an authoritarian regime, but as one also about all of those conflicting actors on the ground,” Cantisano said.
Despite pressure from external forces, Venezuelans suffer the most directly in the present crisis. Given the intolerable conditions of nationwide blackouts and food shortages, Rendon prioritizes the sending of humanitarian aid. Beyond the immediate and physical needs of an impoverished and starving populace, Rendon emphasized that the political and economic problems will have to be addressed if Venezuela ever hopes to regain its wealth. “I think the efforts should, to some extent, be focusing on helping Juan Guaidó to get off the ground and supporting a constitutional way out of this crisis,” he said.
During the discussion, students brought up that the U.S. and other nations have recently filed sanctions on Venezuelan oil distribution and production with the aim to increase economic pressure on Maduro. Rendon instead attributed the current economic crisis in Venezuela to years of corrupt regimes and funneling money.
“We know that sanctions were not the cause of this humanitarian crisis. I mean, again, this is a man-made crisis. This was not caused by a hurricane or by earthquake or by the U.S. These are man-made policies that really drove the country towards collapse,” Rendon said.
Rachel Billings ’22, who attended Rendon’s discussion, found the presentation relevant and timely. “I think we do need to definitely get some humanitarian aid [to the Venezuelan people],” she said. “I don’t know the specifics of how they’re working to do that, but I think it’s definitely something that should be talked about.”
Rendon’s presentation reminded attendees that, given the complexities of Venezuela’s present political turmoil and its history of authoritarian regimes, whatever solution comes to Venezuela will mark a turning point in the nation’s political, social and economic history. Until major changes are enacted, the question will remain whether or not history will repeat itself.