Photo: La Voz de Galicia retrieved.

How can we help the diaspora fully flourish? How can it become leverage for the region? How can we pressure the Venezuelan government from abroad? Is blockchain a possible solution for the crisis that Venezuela has ignited in the region? These were some of the questions that sparked a debate between Magaly Sánchez, Francisco Márquez, Alexandra Winkler, Laura McGorman and our very own Alejandro Machado (software developer, crypto specialist and founder of Omipedia).

It’s pretty hard to sit and imagine how to help both a large community that finds its way beyond our borders and the broken country they’ve left behind. Still, unlocking the hidden power of the Venezuelan diaspora is a challenge undertaken by many of the four million people who fled on the biggest refugee exodus and humanitarian crisis in the hemisphere.

“One of the conditions to be successful as a diaspora is to have strong institutions in the country of origin,” says Magaly Sáchez, senior researcher and visiting scholar of the Office of Population Research. But while the Venezuelan government denies the crisis and the migration of millions, this panel gathers a group of ONGs and individuals who set their minds to help and improve the Venezuelan scene throughout a number of initiatives.

“The immense human capital that Venezuelans abroad represent can have an enormous impact,” explains Francisco Márquez, executive director of Visión Democratica Foundation. “We want to find tools and mechanisms to integrate the diaspora to social and economic development in Venezuela. It’s about strengthening diaspora networks.”

The panel was held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., focused on policy studies and strategic analysis of political, economic and security issues throughout the world, with a specific eye on issues concerning international relations, trade, technology, finance, energy and geostrategy. It was conducted by Andrés Rendón, who has done a magnificent job widely covering the Venezuelan migratory process. Venezuelans’ comings and goings may be seen as undeniable proof of a catastrophe, but it’s also evidence of how far we’re willing to go to make things better; stoically, unconformably and uneclipsably better.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Alejandro Andrade, a former bodyguard of Chavez, before he vaulted, indeed by merit alone no doubt, to the post of National Treasurer pleaded guilty in Federal Court in Miami to money laundering in connection with the receipt of $1 Billion in bribes allowing the bribers to make foreign currency transactions at favorable rates. Mr. Gabriel Jimenez, the former owner if a bank in the Dominican Republic, admitted he conspired with others to buy the bank for the illicit money laundering. Another noteable, Mr. Raul Gorrin, president of Venezuela’s pro government television channel Globovision also took part in the scheme. Of course all 3 gentlemen owned horse ranches, jets,and yachts in south Florida.. Now imagine if the bribes to the former bodyguard did, as he admitted, amount to $1 Billion, how much more money did the bribers mak from the illicit currency transactions, obviously at least several billions of dollars. Is corruption so baked into the fabric of Venezuela that it is no big deal as long as the politicians spread a little of the goodies around to the good citizens. Socialists take note, it is more difficult for this gross type of corruption to take hold where the government does not also dominate the economy. Too much consolidated power equals too much corruption.

    • Yes, William – you’re 100% right.

      Additionally, if you read the WSJ today, there is the news about the biggest climate-change environment disaster in my old Gran Sabana, but coming from a Socialist country no one says anything.

      WSJ is the only source of truth in these days.

  2. This a diaspora because its so exceptional, ordinary venezuelans never migrated , times could be hard , but except for people who were directly persecuted Venezuelans never miggrated , now there are 3 million migrants, in flight not just from a tiranny but from living conditions which are impossible to bear and which day by day grow steadily worse. Other countrys had lots of migrants , we had millions of them come into our country , they made big contributions ……many of the Venezuelan migrants are considered an economic gain or opportunity for the countries to which they migrate , they carry talents and inititives that arent that common in the countries where they move…..Not all people who stay do so because they want to but because migrating is hard and difficult , if everyone that wanted to migrate migrated the numbers would be much much larger !! If things change will they come back , quite a lot of them will if only they can be assured of a life close to that which they enjoyed prior to the current mass collapse……

  3. This report said there was a conference about the disapora of Venezuelans whose aim was to unlock the hidden power of these emigres to help the home country. The report says important issues were discussed but we are not told anything more. Other than an impressive display of English vocabulary, this report told us virtually nothing. What am I missing?

    • William —

      The CSIS link has Rendon’s brief video: https://www.csis.org/ As I see it, he’s furthering awareness of what’s happening. The idea there is to get more minds and motivation on board. While it would be nice to see something concrete, it may be that there is no agreement yet, or the right players have not committed yet.

      It’s something like the calls I’ve made here for someone to come up with “A Plan” for the reconstruction of the baleful country. Basically all I get back is stuff like: “Live here for a month and you’ll understand” or “It’s futile to think of any plan as long as the regime is in place” or “Call the US Marines!” So in total, the only thing I’ve seen of a real plan was a piece by an electrical engineer, a woman who detailed the power grid and the state it’s in. Necessary is someone who can do the same for agriculture, for the dozens of police forces, or even someone who can determine whether to vote or not vote.

      Some people just throw up their hands and call the whole country “stick a fork into it, it’s done”. Millions migrate. The ones that migrate are free to act, and the establishment of an organization they can lend their weight and resources to would be a help. Corralling them to go through an established institution like CSIS would help. Rendon is doing that.

      Just to border on being too cute:
      What do you propose? Ask it to anyone here, an open question. Let’s see what happens. See if anyone has an idea.

      • There’s an article in Dolar Today about a post-Maduro Venezuela: https://dolartoday.com/desafios-antonio-de-la-cruz-los-retos-en-la-venezuela-post-maduro/ Here’s a quote:

        [Start quote]
        “En democracia, lo económico es determinante. Por lo que el manejo en la Venezuela post-Maduro de la hiperinflación y del acceso de la población a alimentos y medicinas serán una prioridad en la transición.Para ello, habrá que enfrentar la actual emergencia macroeconómica con un programa de rescate financiero y estabilización económica que incluya: un préstamo del Fondo Monetario Internacional, una reducción del gasto fiscal en moneda local y extranjera, un aumento de las tasas de impuesto, el levantamiento de la mayoría de los controles a los precios, la eliminación de los subsidios, la devaluación del bolívar, la liberación de las tasas de interés, etc.”
        [end quote]

        I’m not sure how it will work to “provide access to food and medicine” and “eliminate the subsidies”, both at the same time? Maybe I’m reading it wrong. There isn’t mention of funding the transition period with recovery of the money in private accounts the world over – under strict audit by the IMF to ensure the funds don’t go right back into private accounts.

        The other parts that are there are in line with reasonable economics, and it is a statement of plans. Notable winning proposals are opening up capital markets to foreign investment (although not explicitly stating privatization of expropriated property), as well as lifting all import restriction and tariffs on private purchases of supplies and materials. It also states the need for a transition period. Imo, it is a question of allowing free market forces to overtake the failed socialist policies.

        • A loan from the International Monetary Fund is not needed for Venezuela’s recovery. During this regime acquiring debt has only helped to fuel corruption. According to the National Assembly as much as 400 billion dollars of ill-gotten funds could be in foreign bank accounts and other assets just waiting to be reclaimed by the Venezuelan people. “Gringo” is right to suggest that the IMF reclaim and administer the repossessed funds to help the country go in the straight and narrow path to a healthy economy.

    • William, you’re right, this article has neither a head nor tail. “Unlocking the hidden power of the Venezuelan diaspora” (largely consisting of uneducated/unskilled/often sick poor)?? The diaspora as “evidence of how far we’re willing to go to make things better”?? To be successful as a diaspora is to have “strong institutions in the country of origin “(Venezuela)??–more likely needed are strong institutions in the countries of destination to be able to absorb the diaspora onslaught with its huge burden on their respective social welfare systems (a Colombian friend just returned from visiting relatives in Colombia, was amazed at the large numbers of Venezuelans in Colombia sleeping outside overnight in public places, working as street vendors by day, many of the women as prostitutes). Of course, crypto remittances will help solve the diaspora’s problems….

  4. Something I remember since I was a little child in the late seventies is what someone said about the exile Cubans: they must change tactics.

    What are we going to do not to end up like Cubans or Russians in exile? What can we do that makes our journey like those of Estonians, Lithuanians, Poles or Chileans? And I know: we are none of those nations. We must learn the differences and similarities.

      • Difference is, the good guy won in “High Noon”, and got the girl; in Venezuela, the bad guys win, and the girl becomes a moll of a pran/gang head, or worse….

        • The movie ends with the Marshall tossing his badge in the dirt and leaving town, just like the other town leaders had done earlier. Begging the question, is Hadleyville (Venezuela) worth the effort and sacrifice?

          • It is only from a longer-term U.S. strategic geopolitical standpoint. Meanwhile, it serves as a GREAT example for all to see of the abject failure of Socialism/Communism.

  5. When the communists took over in 1959 Cuba’s population was 6.9 million. In 1999 its population was 11.0 million, representing a growth of 59% for this period.

    Venezuela was a new democracy in 1959. In the same forty year period its population grew from 7.3 million to 23.1 million, a much larger increase of 316%.

    In 1959 both countries had a similar number of inhabitants; in contrast in 1999 Venezuela’s population more than doubled that of Cuba. In the Caribbean island people were dying to get out, a fact that does not speak well of its socialist system. In the same period, the very imperfect democratic Venezuela was welcoming people not only from Cuba, but also from a host of other countries.

    Currently Venezuela is a distorted mirror image of Cuba of that period. Countless millions have been forced to leave the country just to survive. How many more will have to join the diaspora before this nightmare is over?

  6. My frustration was directed,at the lack of substance in the article about the disapora. Gringo’s response, asking everyone here for a plan, made me question why my criticizm of the article was so harsh. CC’s greatest contribution should be to answer Gringo’s question but it really doesn’t do that. I get the sense that the editorial policy of CC is quite “conservative” in the sense it does not think fundamental change is necessary, that a few economic reforms coupled with the restoration of democracy will cure Venezuela’s problems. While I lack the expertise to counter that argument, my gut sense is different. Your socialism has totally failed you but a significant number still cling to it as the path forward despite the fact it has economically and morally bankrupted a country of emormous natural wealth. Worse, a significant numbrr support or st leadt tolerate Chavismo. Shouldn’t CC and Venezuelans at least discuss the pissibility and need for more fundamental change. Is goverment domination of every facet of the political and economic life of your nation the best way forward or has it led to unprecedented corruption. After all how is it possible for a former bodyguard to receive a billion dollars in bribes. I like CC and,I have learned a lot here. I do not believe all Venezuelans are stupid and corrupt. But I do believe that CC could be better, a lot better, if it would entertain a serious discussion of fundamental changes that might allow your country to achieve its potential. Gringo asked the right question, what is the plan…

    • It’s true that CC tends to discuss the “pissability”, rather than the practical “possibility”. Venezuela can be “saved”, due to ample natural resources/relatively small population, but it will take a seismic upheaval in its institutions/culture/societal mores–this can only happen by patriotic Ven. military uprising, or U.S. military intervention, followed by complete Constitutional change/Chicago Boys-type monetary/economic reform, and a massive IMF/WB bailout–anyone taking bets/making odds on this happening?

      • NET. – With respect for your ideas, I think it may be possible to bring about a change other than a quasi-war, and I think – it seems to me – that a transition period is possible without a seismic upheaval. But … what are the actual capabilities of the Venezuelan military, if you want to go with an armed forces clash? To what extent would the military deploy against its own citizens? A lot of talk has surfaced about dissent in the military, so estimating the extent of that is significant, too, especially given the history of South America. Going further with the IMF bailout idea, what would those funds be used for? Who would be in charge of dispensing them? Who would be in charge of the close supervision? How much investment would flow into the country if capital markets were guaranteed?

    • William — You bring up an important point of discussion in saying that “a significant number still cling to [Chavismo] as the path forward despite the fact it has economically and morally bankrupted a country of enormous natural wealth.” I don’t have the on-the-ground or “live” background in today’s Venezuela to do much more than offer theory and comparisons and history – all of which are very well-known and often referred to in CC. But, I think a period of transition is necessary, and so do the people who wrote the article for Dolar Today.

      With respect for Venezuelans and ex-pats in-country who are forced to live the nightmare and understandably have negative / depressing views, there must be a future somewhere. Just to try to be clear, I think the majority of Venezuelans, the broad public which includes those who don’t know economics from a kite in the wind, are looking for a direction, and are more than ready to move. Most people are content to follow, especially if it makes sense. I also totally agree with you that there is plenty of talent among Venezuelans to solve the country’s dilemma, much as Chileans solved Chile.

      Talking about it, airing ideas, is useful. “Libertad” above is a new name to me here, but he seems pretty forceful in stating that Venezuela has money that belongs to Venezuela. And that money is being found. Given what I’ve read, it seems that an international accounting firm could deploy to audit the use of those funds, or maybe the IMF has resources to do that. It might even be instructive for the people at the IMF (i.e. the French and their socialist notions). Rehabilitating the petroleum industry somehow would yield cash flow. My sense is that there are a lot of people outside Venezuela who could put together some ideas, and even the “machinery” or the “battle plans” of actual implementation. To give “aliento” to the most of the population who do care.

      Somewhere in the archives of CC a woman who I would guess is an engineer (I think it was Isabel – and I can’t quite get the last name), did a pretty remarkable piece about the details necessary to recover the country’s power generation and especially its distribution network. Someone else did a piece about abandoned cargo containers and their cost – in detail. I don’t know where to get someone to do the same for the agricultural sector – or for the transportation system. Someone did write at length about that, but mostly about what was not working, not so much about operating costs. For transportation, a wild guess says that spare parts and tires would fix 50% of it, and probably also decrease theft, with obvious increases in productivity. (Could the country operate transportation at break-even, and for how long? If not, would moto-taxis increase if spare parts were available? No laugh – some places have few cars and a lot of bicycles.)

      There are a lot of moving pieces all over the place. Should PDVSA be privatized? The way thing look now, it’s being sold a low prices to Russian and Chinese interests. Oil is the major player, but there are a lot of other issues. Clean up Lake Maracaibo, restructure the army, the police forces, the metro. Assigning priorities to sectors has really already been suggested in the article in Dolar Today. Like you are, I’m just banging on the car door to get more articles about what to do on “the day after”. Algo que no sea MAS – what was MAS, Movimento al Socialismo?

      Apologies if I splashed too much ink here on this thread.

  7. Instead of reporting daily the disasterous consequences of Chavismo, no food, no electricity, no water, and now no dignified burials, CC should mix it up. The unrelenting focus on these disasters is downright depressing and not helpful. We know things are rotten and getting worse. Enough. Every CC contributor should tackle the more difficult task. What changes should Venezuela make going forward. What does a healthy Venezuela look like. Changing Venezuela is a huge task but improving CC seems like a realizeable goal and perhaps can lead to an improved Venezuela. C’mon Quico…make CC better.

    • “What does a healthy Venezuela look like.” You nailed it.

      The idea I have is a free-market capitalism. It worked in Chile, they changed it to be more socialist, and the economy slowed. “Libertad” above says repatriated embezzled funds, administered closely by IMF.
      “NET.” has all kinds of good idea, below here.
      Self-sustaining in agriculture.
      Repaired oil infrastructure, maybe back to the leases and taxes that worked up to nationalization.
      Transition period would be part of the plan.

  8. A common-sense approach might be to look at the countries Venezuelans are fleeing to, try to figure out what they are doing right that makes them more attractive, and see if there might be some lessons to be learned for a better Venezuela.
    But you will be shouted down by the lefty intellectuals who, though embarrassed by the collapse of yet another great socialist/communist experiment, still feel obligated to sneer at anything that smacks of freedom, capitalism, democracy, and the culture of individualism and personal responsibility required to make it work:

    Chile……..OMG, Penochet and his terrible purge! Too Right Wing!

    Brazil…….Beyond Right Wing! Facist! No way, Jose!

    Colombia..No! No! Still too Right Wing! And they are cozy with Uncle Sam!

    USA………Donald Trump? Are you kidding!

    So I can only assume that the snowflakes, with their superior intellect and morality, have in the works a perfect plan for a future Venezuela. We are waiting.

    • Great post.

      I kind of cringe to leave it at that without saying what specifically I find great about it. That seems weak of me, to not say specifically what I like about it. But I don’t want to say something that misses or detracts from what you posted. I think – it seems to me – that you have accurately identified the salient social level symptom of the underlying individual disease that we have been living with for decades.

  9. Sound free-market economics isn’t rocket science, nor is structural institutional reform. Reigning in adverse socio-cultural tendencies (corruption/no work ethic/living on freebies-stealing) is more difficult, but can be done. Transition welfare-for-poor/unemployed programs will be necessary, but mostly not permanent. Massive amounts of low-cost IMF capital will be necessary: Intl. debt $160 bill servicing; $40 bill (?) commercial debt paid; $10-20 bill/year for many years just to recuperate the petroleum industry; ?$bill for agriculture/infrastructure/electricity/water/medical care recuperation. Don’t count on major stolen funds recuperation, mostly hidden in financial institutions outside of U.S. influence/purview. At least partial privatization of petroleum industry probably a necessity/recommendable. Right now Venezuela’s population is 90% critically poor trying to subsist on $1/less a day–recuperation is a massive task, requiring competent oversight of massive outside funding programs.

  10. how much money could Venezuela save from downsizing/eliminating its military. The notion of jet aircraft tanks and a heavily armed Venezuela military seems odd. Has a neighboring country invaded,Venezuela in the past150 years. Isn’t this an idea that the left and right can unite behind.

    • Of course, the Venezuelan military, after its last 20 years’experience in particular, should be substantially down-sized; they have always been a giant leech sucking on the national Treasury, but now have become instrumental/key in ruining the Country financially/politically.

    • Venezuela is too big and in a very bad neighbourhood to have no army, especially in a country where there is no rule of law and large swaths of its territory are under control of foreign guerrillas and criminals. The military will have to be purged and its tasks performed either by an occupation army or by mercenaries, for a while. CR and PA can afford the luxury to have no army and incompetent police because the US army is their army. Do you really think Venezuela has that luxury after all that has happened?

      Once the transition has begun the army has to be reestructured and probably downsized following a hybrid of the Swiss model (mass concription) and a highly professionalized but small army following the Israeli standard. Enough to defend the borders, root out narcos and defend the coastline, automate air reconnaissance through drone usage. Drones could be bought or leased from other countries. Either that or disband it and hire mercenaries for those tasks, But beware, mercenaries have a terrible record when they are the only ones in town.

  11. The Venezuelan diaspora has been caused in grand part by official corruption. How can any political system — right, left or center — survive if a third of its financial resources are syphoned off to corruption, as denounced by two of the regime´s ex-cabinet ministers, Jorge Giordani and Hector Navarro,

    The pair of ministers alleged that during a decade of the current regime about 300 billion dollars had been misappropriated. For its part investigations by the opposition-controlled National Assembly put the estimate drained to corruption at between 350 and 400 billion dollars.

    Acquiring foreign debt has helped to fuel corruption. Economist Miguel Angel Santos estimates Venezuela’s foreign debt at close to 185 billion dollars. There was no justifiable reason to shoulder this debt considering the amount embezzled.

    Let me explain. If, for argument’s sake, the amount embezzled was 350 billion dollars, 185 billion of those dollars were financed by acquiring debt. In theory if the Venezuelan government had never assumed that debt then the amount embezzled would have been “limited” to 165 billion dollars. ($350 billion – $185 billion = $165 billion).

    In that la-la world Venezuela would at present have no debt and would not have incurred in default. Being much smaller the amount of ill-gotten assets, the state would have a much easier time repossessing them.

    So if the Venezuelan president goes hat in hand asking China or Russia for more loans, they can very diplomatically reply, “We don’t want to finance further corruption. Put your house in order and get your money back from those who stole from the Venezuelan state.”

    All these funds syphoned off have prevented the government from investing in things like the oil industry which as a result is now extracting half the crude it was three years ago, with production still falling 3% a month. No wonder Venezuela is in economic free fall with a diaspora of millions to show for it.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here