Trapped in an economic, social and political crisis, Venezuela will see “regime change” soon, predicted Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, saying the once-rich nation can no longer survive its corrupt leadership.
Speaking at a business conference in Hungary on Friday, Santos called Venezuela one of his country’s “biggest problems,” saying the ongoing humanitarian crisis and exodus of Venezuelan is straining social services.
“Venezuela is the richest country, by far, in Latin America because it has the world’s largest oil reserves, even larger than Saudi Arabia,” Santos said. “And with a change in the regime — which will happen and happen very soon — the Venezuelan economy, with a little bit of good government, will grow rapidly and the opportunities for Colombia will be enormous.”
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The comments come as Venezuela is headed into elections May 20 where President Nicolás Maduro is hoping to win a new six-year term. Colombia, the United States and the European Union, among others, have said they will not recognize the vote, which they see as fraudulent.
Maduro has long accused Colombia and Washington of trying to topple his socialist administration, and has blamed food and medicine shortages, and the country’s five-digit inflation, on an “economic war” waged by his enemies. The Trump administration has slapped dozens of former and current Venezuelan officials — including Maduro — with sanctions and has prohibited U.S. financial institutions from dealing with new Venezuelan debt.
Santos, who will step down after Colombia’s May 27 presidential election, said that once there is a new leader in Venezuela, the entire region will benefit.
Venezuela is “the richest country in Latin America with the poorest performance,” he said. “People are dying of hunger and people are immigrating to Colombia because there is no food or medicine there.”
The Red Cross says that at least 1 million Venezuelans have crossed the border into Colombia in recent years — many of them fleeing to countries like Peru, Chile and Ecuador. The United States is donating tens of millions of dollars to provide humanitarian aid to the migrants along the Colombian-Venezuelan border.
Maduro narrowly won election in 2013 running as the handpicked successor of the late Hugo Chávez, who first came to power in 1998. And both men remained in power longer than many in the region expected.
“There’s a Spanish proverb that says ‘There’s no illness that lasts 100 years, or a body that can survive it,’” Santos told the conference. “We’re convinced that there will be a change in Venezuela. And for Colombia, that will be a big boost.”