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Trapped in a downward political and economic spiral, the instability in Venezuela caused by a weakening democracy and the spread of violent crime has profound consequences for Latin America and the rest of the world. As Nicolás Maduro enters another presidential term bankrupt and isolated, the deep roots of organized crime that support his government will deepen and solidify.

Venezuela has become a kleptocracy and what some would call a “mafia state.” Transparency and accountability have disappeared and corruption is endemically affecting the daily lives of Venezuelans. State coffers are controlled and drained by individuals involved in crime groups – whose positions have been secured by political loyalty and not by merit. They have penetrated every level and sector of state institution.

These groups have diverse criminal portfolios and cover a scope that has become transnational in nature. Capitalizing on their control, they pillage from industries that have real potential to better Venezuela’s trade and economy. But now, rich resources like oil fields remain mismanaged and farmers are not given support to plant food to feed the local population. Instead of creating partnerships with neighbors like Colombia, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic, these countries are being used as strategic transits for the illegal shipment of drugs, arms, fuel, and human trafficking to and from Venezuela.

It has become increasingly difficult for other nations to combat the situation, especially when the very institutions tasked with fighting such illicit activity are embroiled in it. There is a perpetual cycle where corruption cements Maduro’s authoritarian position as he protects and enables the crime network to spread. Left unchecked and unchallenged, further escalation would be catastrophic for the country and the region. The international community must create a united front and urgently consider the actions they must take to alleviate the situation.


Further Readings:

Venezuela: A Mafia State?

Venezuela, the New Regional Crime Hub

Workers Flee and Thieves Loot Venezuela’s Reeling Oil Giant

Venezuela’s instability has far broader implications. Here’s what’s at stake.

Dominican Republic and Venezuela: Cocaine Across the Caribbean

How Venezuela Struck It Poor

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