Venezuela was once one of the richest countries in Latin America. After the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2013, he not only left an authoritarian legacy, but his economic policies had become unsustainable.
Venezuela is now home to an economic and humanitarian crisis, including civil unrest, hyperinflation, food shortages and lack of medical supplies. President Nicolas Maduro was re-elected in 2018 but the poll was widely dismissed as rigged. National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó labeled Mr. Maduro a “usurper” and declared himself interim president in January 2019. The United States and many other countries back Juan Guaidó, but they are at odds with Russia and China’s competing regional interests, and the military has remained loyal to Mr. Maduro.
Join the Richmond World Affairs Council for a public panel program to learn more about the current crisis in Venezuela, its authoritarian legacy and the U.S. policy toward the country.
Panelist 1: David Smolanksy
David Smolansky is Commissioner of the Secretary General of the OAS for the Venezuelan Migration and Refugee Crisis.
He holds a B.A. in journalism and MA in political science. He began his career as a politician and a public servant when he co-founded the Venezuelan Student Movement in 2007, leading non violent protests against Hugo Chávez. He also was a co-founder of Voluntad Popular, interim’s government political party in Venezuela, and became Deputy Secretary General of that organization.
In 2013, Smolansky was elected mayor of El Hatillo in Caracas, at age 28, becoming the youngest local authority in the country. Security and transparency became the priorities of his administration. As a mayor, he led a decrease of more than 80% of kidnapping and was recognized internationally as one of the most transparent and accountable local governments in his country. In August of 2017, the Supreme Court, controlled by the regime, ordered his arrest and removed him from office after 4 consecutive months of non violent protests against Nicolás Maduro.
He was forced to be in clandestinity for 35 days until he fled the country through Brazil. Smolansky has been based during his more of two years in exile in Washington D.C. where he was a Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University and was recognized with the GCL Impact Award 2018. He has been advocating to restore democracy and freedom in Venezuela becoming one of the main leaders in exile. Smolansky was chosen by Americas Quarterly magazine as one of the top ten people who will rebuild his country. Also, he has been designated by the Secretary General of the OAS as his special envoy for the Venezuelan Migration and Refugee Crisis in the region which is the largest ever in the history of the region with 5 million Venezuelans displaced.
Since he has been in the OAS, Smolansky has made more than 20 visits to the region to promote policies in favor of the Venezuelan refugees and raise awareness internationally about the causes of the mass forced migration of Venezuelans.
Panelist 2: Michael Shifter
Michael Shifter is president of the Inter-American Dialogue.
Shifter writes and talks widely on US-Latin American relations and hemispheric affairs. His recent articles have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Financial Times, Current History, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Journal of Democracy, Harvard International Review and in newspapers and journals in Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Chile, Panama, Argentina and Brazil. He is often interviewed by US, Latin American, European and Chinese media, and appears frequently on CNN and BBC. Shifter has lectured about hemispheric policy at leading universities in Latin America and Europe and has testified regularly before the US Congress about US policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean.
Prior to joining the Dialogue, Shifter directed the Latin American and Caribbean program at the National Endowment for Democracy and, before that, the Ford Foundation’s governance and human rights program in the Andean region and Southern Cone, where he was based, first, in Lima, Peru and then in Santiago, Chile. In the 1980s, he was representative in Brazil with the Inter-American Foundation, and also worked at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Latin American Program.
Since 1993, Shifter has been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where he teaches Latin American politics. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Latin American Studies Association and is a contributing editor to Current History. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Washington Office on Latin America and on the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch/Americas Division, and the Social Science Foundation of the Graduate School of International Relations at the University of Denver.
Shifter graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Oberlin College and holds a MA in sociology from Harvard University, where he taught Latin American development and politics for four years.
5:00 PM: Registration and Cash Bar opens
5:45 PM: Program begins
6:30 – 7:00 PM: Q&A
Parking options at the Jefferson Hotel include street-side parking, valet parking, or self-parking at the Jefferson’s Main Lot, where a discounted rate of $4 is available. Find parking instructions for the Main Lot here.
Registration has closed for this event. We are at capacity at this point, a limited number of tickets may become available if RSVPs are cancelled.