As the Crisis Deepens, How Can the Diaspora Venezuelans Help?

Venezuelans in the diaspora can contribute both to the countries that host them and to the country they’re from. At this crucial juncture, all the Venezuelan abroad can play a crucial role. Here’s how.

Photo: World Economic Forum, retrieved.

Today, Juan Guaidó called on the Venezuelan diaspora: “Get ready to return.”

The democratic opposition, effectively represented by Guaidó, is proposing solutions and making decisions that may bring the country closer to a democratic transition, and the aforementioned message goes to 3.2 million Venezuelans all over the world, that’s 3.2 million opportunities to influence and contribute not only to the countries receiving them, but also to Venezuela.

Indeed, there’s power in the diaspora.

The most well known type of help is through remittances. According to the World Bank, in the Latin American region, remittances flows increased by about 9.3% in 2018, to reach $87 billion overall, while independent experts estimate that Venezuelans send around $1 billion dollars per year to their friends and families. The way these remittances are, or can potentially be, used by Maduro to sustain the regime is open to debate, as is the economic policies needed for these remittances to have a positive effect on the economic development of the country. Some even speak of remittances as “a new stage” in Venezuela’s economy, should some prerequisites be fulfilled.

But beyond remittances, there’s what Haussmann calls “the co-ethnic or “diaspora networks” and the “knowhow” or tacit knowledge gained through the migration experience in service of Venezuela’s reconstruction.

The aforementioned message goes to 3.2 million Venezuelans all over the world, that’s 3.2 million opportunities to influence and contribute not only to the countries receiving them, but also to Venezuela.

Social remittances, or the sharing of “ideas, behaviors, identities and social capital,” are another way diasporas contribute. Once Venezuelans settle in their new countries, there’s a potential for their ideas and behaviors being brought to Venezuela, and boy, are we going to need those. It means ideas for policy reforms, but also behaviors long forgotten in our Venezuelan society. Civic behaviors.

Professor Steven Vertovec also talks about the way diasporas can exert more direct political influence. He says that “different diaspora-based associations may lobby host countries (to shape policies in favor of a homeland or to challenge a homeland government), influence homelands (through their support or opposition of governments), give financial and other support to political parties, social movements and civil society organizations, or sponsor terrorism or the perpetuation of violent conflict in the homeland.”

In this particular political moment, the Venezuelan diaspora can play a crucial role by:

* Being a voice for Venezuela, and Venezuelans, in their host communities. Venezuelans must become voceros about the current situation our fellow countrymen suffer. They need to make the ciudadano de a pie in Chile, Argentina, Spain, Colombia, etc, aware of what’s happening, and what needs to change.

* Lobbying. Or interest representation. Those with the possibility of having an influence on policy makers in the receiving countries need to use all means available to persuade and influence them in making the most adequate policies to restore the democratic order in Venezuela. We now have a group of politicians in exile. They, as well as any who have the networks, need to stay active in moving the Venezuelan democracy and human rights agenda forward.

* Sending humanitarian assistance. NGO Visión Democrática has documented that there are over 100 Venezuelan NGOs in the United States that are actually mobilizing to send humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans. Apart from each of the very important efforts of support that happen every day without any of us knowing, a well known case was that of Nelson Bustamante, and Luis Chataing, who together collected donations in Miami to bring to the caminantes venezolanos in Colombia.

* Demonstrating. Yes, demonstrating. With the successful organization of the cabildos abiertos in Venezuela, similar exercises occured in other countries. Chile was a case, and the point is that, at every opportunity possible, and without disrupting order in our host countries, we must make it a point to go out and demonstrate on behalf of democracy and human rights in Venezuela.  

Just remember, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro recently said that the Venezuelan Diaspora has been extremely successful in making countries aware of the Venezuelan situation. He confirms that it is “very difficult for any country to ignore these voices; they’re very loud and strong and full of the experience that they have lived; they have definitely changed the rules of the game, and they were able to bring stronger support from the international community to restore democracy in the country.”

What began on January 23 brings another opportunity to get mobilized pacifically and democratically for Venezuela, and we need to get mobilized. If a democratic and institutional solution is not reached, and soon, we should expect more of the same in terms of the economic, monetary and social policies that have caused more than 3 million Venezuelans to flee the country. And we better prepare, as the UN has recently estimated to see at least two million more Venezuelans flee. There are benefits in having a robust 5 million Venezuelan diaspora, but let’s hope this is not the case.

** Points of view are personal. They do not represent the position of the OAS.

PS: In a quick google search of the word “Venezuelan diaspora,” I found that we now exist as a term in the search engine. There’s more: there’s a particular entry to the term “Bolivarian diaspora,” meaning the last wave (2017-2018), characterized as “a reversal of fortune on a massive scale.” So whether you belong to the first, second or third wave of Venezuelans abroad, you already have a Wiki-entry.