On Feb. 13, Study Abroad Director and International Student Adviser Daniel Diaz participated in an information panel regarding the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Alongside Daniel were Professors Bill Hamilton, Alfonso Mancheño and Carmen Obregón Salama, as well as Provost and Academic Dean Frank Boyd.
Eric Mortensen, the panel’s host, began the session by emphasizing to more than 40 attendees the purpose of the event, “Don’t be satisfied with just learning more. Ask yourself the hard questions about it. Ask how you can ethically engage yourself.”
Each of the panelists presented on their specialty regarding Venezuela. Bill introduced attendees to the history of political and economic violence in the country and the role of U.S. interventions. Daniel brought to the forefront the importance of Colombia’s good-neighbor attitude and open-border policy. It is expected that four million Venezuelans will live in Colombia by 2021.
Alfonso followed Daniel by explaining how European countries and the United States have weaponized the political turmoil in Venezuela for their own political gains. Frank began by acknowledging that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Moros is following in the footsteps of Chavez. Frank emphasized why in the wake of events in Venezuela, Hungary, the United Kingdom and in the United States it is vital to understand the fundamental characteristics of populism.
Carmen Obregón Salama, a native Venezuelan, closed the presentation by explaining the underlying problems that have led to the societal breakdown in her home country. Ballooning inflation, violence, little available work and scarce food, as well as health-care shortages, are the backbone of Venezuela’s struggles. Venezuela’s inflation rate was 10 million percent last year; the average Venezuelan has lost 24 pounds in the past year; and there is a shortage of 85 percent of medications in the country.
While the U.S. national media is primarily focused on the looming possibility of another government shutdown, the information panel was a great way for Guilford students, as well as other community members, to educate themselves on issues outside of our borders. Student Caleb Bausman says he was thankful for a space free of American politics to learn more about the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. “Everything is moving really fast and there is so much confusion. It’s hard to know what to think and what to believe and it’s tainted by our own politics,” Caleb explained.