A Measure of Our Fragility

How bad did Venezuela get? Among the many ways to answer that question, we can consider Fund for Peace’s Fragile State Index 2019, one of the multidisciplinary approaches that can tell the magnitude of our drama.

Photo: Carolina Political Review, retrieved.

Thousands of photographs. Pages and pages of academic studies, journalism, witness accounts. Hours of TV and documentary footage. The corpus on Venezuela is increasingly abundant, without mentioning the noise and smoke of propaganda from all sides. 

However, when it comes to having a point of reference from which you can conceive the extent of the disaster, a good place to start is the global indexes on several matters where you can see how Venezuela under Maduro is performing. 

Adjectives are unnecessary when you consider these scores.

On Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2018, our country ranks 168th out of 180. On Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom ranking, we are ranked 148th out of 180. The Economist Intelligence Unit puts Venezuela in the 117th spot out of 167 on its freedom and democracy index. According to Freedom House, we are the 19th country on its freedom report, where 100 is the best score. And as the reader could guess, Heritage Foundation puts Venezuela on the 179th position of its economic freedom index… out of 180.

All this has to do with the subject we proposed in a previous post: Venezuela is starting to look deeply damaged, not only as an economy or a democracy, but as a nation-state. It’s looking less and less sustainable as a country.

Adjectives are unnecessary when you consider these scores.

A non-profit based in Washington, D.C., Fund for Peace, offers with its Fragile State Index 2019 a global ranking of what used to be called “failed states” now seen through the lens of a less problematic criteria of State sustainability: fragility, measured as the country’s performance against itself and not against others, according to quantitative and qualitative data. FPP says its 12-indicator methodology closely watches those developments usually ignored under the surface of news coverage, and it follows country-specific historical trends from several sources. 

They’re seeing a world that’s a little more stable, where a selected group of countries is involved in downward trends for years, Venezuela among them. In this ranking, the lower the number, the more sustainable the state is, and vice versa. 

On the Fragile State Index 2019, the first category, Very Sustainable, starts with the champion, Finland, with 16.9 points, followed by Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Australia, Iceland and Canada. Down from there, we see the Sustainable (Singapore, New Zealand, and several European countries); the Very Stable (where the first Latin American countries appear, like Uruguay and Chile, besides France, the U.S. and a few others), the More Stable, the Warning, the Elevated Warning, the High Warning, the Alert, the High Alert, and finally the Very High Alert. 

The worst ranked of all, in the last group, are Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen (with 113.5 points), all of them countries at war. 

Venezuela is at the bottom of the High Warning category, with 89.3 points. It was the country that lost more positions from the indexes of 2018 to 2019, out of a total of 178 countries. Last year, it had 86.1 points, and it’s been falling dramatically since 2009. In the Americas, only Haiti is worse, with 99.3 points. 

The index is made from the events that took place in the country during the year studied; FFP recognizes that if the political turmoil of the first months of 2019 would have been considered, Venezuela’s score would be even worse. 

The summary of Venezuela’s conditions is bief but detailed in what matters the most.

Venezuela is “on the brink of collapse” according to FPP, and is the start of the first detailed chapter of the report, “the sick man of South America,” which exposes the contrast between the first country to be declared malaria-free—a former beacon of democracy in the region—and the current combination of violence by colectivos, health collapse, undernourishment, massive emigration and economic disaster. The summary of Venezuela’s conditions is brief but detailed in what matters the most. It mentions several reports by UN agencies and the most recent developments of 2019, such as the political crisis and the expectation in terms of emigration. 

FPP notes on Venezuela concur with the analysis of other observers, like the International Crisis Group, and ends with a caution. “With two people now claiming the mantle of presidential legitimacy and millions more refugees and migrants expected to leave the country over the next year, 2019 is likely to see countries outside Venezuela increasingly affected by, and involved in, the crisis. Hopefully, these regional and international stakeholders can coordinate to find a solution that helps the Venezuelans currently suffering inside and outside their country,  rather than using the country and its people as a stage on which to pursue their own interests. However, irrespective of any improvement in the short term, Venezuela demonstrates how even once-prosperous nations can spiral into fragility.”