Wide Range of Inaccuracies Within Venezuela Accusations

By Llewellyn Hinkes Jones

Elliott Abrams, the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, has upped the rhetoric against the Maduro regime in Venezuela in recent days as it deals with a country-wide blackout, with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) specifically calling for upheaval to upseat the country’s president in favor of the opposition candidate Juan Guaidó.

But many of the accusations levied at Maduro for mismanaging the country’s economics include a swath of inaccuracies or misrepresentations of the country’s state of affairs.

Descriptions of Venezuelans fleeing the country en masse and demanding asylum in the U.S., as stated by Council of Economic Advisers Kevin Hassett and Abrams respectively, is not backed up by immigration data.

Criticisms of Venezuela’s lowered oil production following Chavismo—the political philosophy ushered in by previous Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and inherited by Maduro—don’t align with oil production data published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), as other factors like a steep drop in globaloil prices, limited imports from sanctions, and an inability to access credit markets are also factors.

Abrams also cited an ailing and underfunded electrical grid in a press conference March 8th following the blackout, but the main source of electrical issues has been drought affecting hydroelectric production and electricity generation had been at historic highs in recent years.

Refugee Crisis Overstated

Rather than a refugee crisis in Venezuela, numbers from the World Bank show that the country had a net migration into the country of 652,00 people in 2017.

A large portion of the migration out of the country, over 23 percent, were those going from Venezuela to Spain, not indicative of a flood of impoverished population to nearby neighbors.

Compare that to nearby El Salvador which appears to be dealing with a substantial migration problem of over 1.5 million people leaving in 2017, with over 80 percent of them headed to the United States.

While asylum requests granted to Venezuelans, which Abrams identified as a major issue, are substantial—328 in 2016 according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data—it’s far below the number of El Salvadoran asylum requests (1,404).

Oil Production Only Struggling Since Sanctions

While oil production following Hugo Chavez’s presidency did drop below its peak in the late nineties, it wasn’t far below its average of about 2.5 billion barrels per quarter.

Only since sanctions were levied against the country in 2015-2016 that oil production suddenly dropped by a half to historic lows in 2018.

Electricity Issues

Blackouts, like the most recent one involving the Guri hydroelectric dam, have burdened Venezuela with blackout periods.

But previous nationwide blackouts were ascribed to drought conditions affecting hydroelectric production—the major source of electricity for the country.

Otherwise, electricity production has been at historic highs in 2014.

An analysis by EIA indicated that the country had been investing more in fossil-fuel fired electricity generation to decrease the dependence on hydroelectric, but that investment has stopped following economic issues that have impacted the country in the last few years.

Published: March 14, 2019