Venezuela is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. Access to rudimentary resources, the internet and freedom is extremely limited. Thousands of people are fleeing the country every day, and as of last November, three million Venezuelan refugees resided outside of the country.
Venezuela’s current president, Nicolás Maduro, has been at the center of a decaying economy and country. Protestors across Venezuela, including those in the United States and abroad, have recognized the leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the legitimate leader.
With many experts saying the country is on verge of a civil war, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies hosted an event Monday evening with esteemed panelists from across the city and globe discussing the escalating crisis in the region.
Beatriz Borges, Venezuelan humanitarian attorney and panelist at the event “Venezuela: What’s Happening? What’s next?” told the crowd that lives are being lost.
“Venezuelans are suffering and losing their lives,” Borges said. “Twenty years of a problem cannot be changed in one day.”
The sold-out event had over 100 attendees — most of which were forced to stand.
Borges repeatedly told the crowd of predominantly students to not take democracy for granted. She added that people in Venezuela are being jailed for speaking out against the government and for asking for food.
“People do not feel free,” Borges said. “The prospect of military intervention is frightening.”
When the conversation opened up to the audience, an attendee shamed the panel for painting the picture that the United States is helping to promote democracy in the region. This left out, what he called “a very bloody history” of U.S. involvement in South America.
“Elliott Abrams is a war criminal,” the attendee yelled at panelists.
Crowd members cheered in response to this, but Columbia University professor and panelist Christopher Sabatini responded by saying “[the attendee] doesn’t know what he’s saying” and should be “careful with his terminology” in calling Abrams, who was on a special envoy to Venezuela for the U.S. under the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, a war criminal.
CAS senior Sabrina Lou attended the event with her boyfriend Michael Khayan, who was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela but moved to New York in 2003.
“I’m from China and knew nothing about this beforehand,” Lou told WSN. “My boyfriend is from Venezuela and he is really interested in this political issue, which has made me interested.”
Khayan came to the event with a question for panelist and Chief Economist at Torino Capital Francisco Rodríguez.
“It means a lot to have this amount of people here,” Khayan told WSN. “The fact that we can come together and have these discussions in a civilized way speaks a lot to how we are different from a country like Venezuela.”
Email Jared Peraglia at [email protected].