People wait to cross the Francisco de Paula Santander international bridge, linking Urena, in Venezuela and Cucuta, in Colombia GEORGE CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images

Venezuelans Deserve Refugee Status

With 280,000 Venezuelan children expected to die of starvation this year, it is little wonder that the country's people are stampeding for the exits at a rate that is unprecedented in the Americas. In this context, the United Nations is right to urge countries to grant Venezuelans refugee status.

CAMBRIDGE – Venezuela is in the news again. Through unprecedented treachery, President Nicolás Maduro awarded himself victory in the presidential election on May 20. Given that the blatantly pro-government electoral council had delisted the three main opposition parties and disqualified two major political leaders, much of the opposition boycotted the process. The two other candidates who participated did not recognize the result, given the many violations that took place. Neither did the United States, Canada, the European Union and most Latin American countries.

Despite official efforts at intimidation – for example, voters were forced to identify themselves in official party booths at the risk of being disqualified from social programs – abstention reached record levels. While the outcome of the election was never in doubt, the event destroyed any pretense of legitimacy by Maduro.

In the meantime, Venezuela’s catastrophic economic collapse is continuing at an astonishing rate. Food prices have soared by a factor of 100 in the year to April 2018, and by more than 200% in the last month alone. The price of the dollar has increased by a factor of over 100 since July 2017. According to OPEC’s monthly report, oil production has declined by 27% (equivalent to 520,000 barrels per day) in the 12 months to April of 2018. It now stands at 1.4 million bpd, two million barrels per day below where it was when Maduro’s predecessor and patron, Hugo Chávez, took power in 1999. The minimum wage, which is earned by the median worker, buys less than 900 calories a day – not enough to feed a person, let alone a family. The Catholic charity CARITAS Venezuela projects that 280,000 children will die of hunger this year.

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