Julio Borges Explains Venezuelan Crisis in Colombian Congress
On Tuesday, February 14, 2017, Julio Borges, President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, spoke before the Congress of Colombia about the political, economic, social and institutional crisis currently facing Venezuela. In his speech, Borges explained how the regime of President Nicolás Maduro has used puppet institutions to strip Venezuelans of their right to vote and eliminate the duties of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. He moreover condemned the Venezuelan government’s disastrous economy policies and resulting violence, hunger, severe shortages, and mass migration, and called upon Latin American governments to support a return to democracy and constitutional order in Venezuela.
“Venezuela is undergoing the worst crisis in its history,” said Julio Borges, who noted that some 3 million Venezuelans are currently forced to search for food in the trash in order to eat. Borges blamed the current crisis on “an economic model that Nicolás Maduro clings to in order to remain in power.” In his words, “the Venezuelan minimum wage is the second lowest in Latin America and the shortage of medicines is greater than 85%. The worst drama of all is that 80% of families eat less than 3 times a day, which has forced them to emigrate. In Colombia alone, it is estimated that there are about half a million Venezuelans. Some 50,000 people cross the border every day. The International Migration Laboratory indicates that until 1992 there were less than 50,000 Venezuelans living in other nations, but today there are 2,500,000 people who have emigrated, which represents 8.3% of the total population.”
Julio Borges stated that Venezuela’s government “has destroyed our currency,” noting that inflation in 2016 was over 700%. “There is no national production, there is no investment, because there is no security or institutionalism.”
Borges moreover expressed concerns about the rampant violence in Venezuela, which currently claims the second highest murder rate in the world. A Venezuelan is killed due to violence every 18 minutes in the country, while impunity rates for murder reach 98%. As Borges explained, the government has formed paramilitary groups and equipped them with weapons, allowing them to commit violent crimes in the name of “loyalty to the revolution” and to go after “those who think differently.” According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the Venezuelan government spends over USD 5.6 billion on weapons.
Julio Borges condemned the government for undermining democratic rule, as evidenced in its illegal suspension of a public referendum to recall President Maduro and postponement of regional elections. “Today we Venezuelans are entering a new saga for freedom, to recover the validity of the Constitution and to redeem the right to vote, in order to choose our destiny as free citizens. Last year, in complicity with puppet institutions, the government prevented two electoral processes in the Constitution from being carried out. [The government] seems to have decided that in Venezuela there is no more voting and that there are no elections, and that is unacceptable. That falls outside the Constitution and is defined by a word as simple as it is dark: dictatorship,” he said.
Borges explained that Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly was elected by 14 million Venezuelans –75% of the electorate– but nevertheless “is not recognized by other public institutions, which are controlled by the government.” Borges noted that over the course of a single year, Venezuela’s Supreme Court “has issued almost fifty sentences that seek to reduce the Venezuelan Parliament to institutional rubble.” Accordingly to Borges, the Supreme Court has invalidly declared Parliament in contempt of court in order to “interpret the Constitution so that the National Assembly cannot legislate, control government actions, or approve the national budget.” Borges moreover noted that the Supreme Court has violated the constitutional right of congressmen to parliamentary immunity, given that several are currently held in military prisons.
“Nicolas Maduro is a dictator,” stated Borges. “In this climate of unleashed impunity and violence, the Maduro government has turned Venezuela into a criminal sanctuary for the development of terrorism and drug trafficking, activities that unfold without enemies under the complacent gaze of the government,” he said. He noted that, according to the organization Transparency International, Venezuela is among the 10 most corrupt countries in the world and the most corrupt in Latin America.
Borges urged the government of neighboring Colombia and Latin America to support a return to democracy and constitutional order in Venezuela. “Venezuela today appeals to our common history, for our sister country of Colombia to be the main promoter of the restitution of democracy in our country. What the Venezuelan people demand is nothing extraordinary, we ask that the region mobilize so that in Venezuela the Constitution is restored, there are free elections, and that human rights and institutions, such as the National Assembly, are respected (…) the moment has arrived for fellow foreign ministries and congressmen to involve themselves in a democratic solution to a problem that not only affects Venezuela, but the entire region.”
Finally, Borges asked Venezuela’s Armed Forces to support democratic solutions to the current crisis: “Maduro’s government has gained the loyalty of a small sector of the hierarchy of the Armed Forces, and with them has established a powerful apparatus of social control. Venezuela, which was an example of democracy and a candle in the midst of the darkness of military dictatorships that plagued the region, today debates its destiny against a tyranny that is based on a corrupt and ruthless elite. The dream of those who want a better country is to incorporate our brothers and sisters in uniform in the construction and development of a new Venezuela, and that together we can provide democratic solutions and progress to our people.”
“We want to be very emphatic: we will win this battle by the whole country against a group that through power oppresses, persecutes and steals,” said Borges.