Where should our eyes be looking right now? Venezuela: a crucial and important geopolitical risk of the last decade.

If I ask you what topic you think has the most significant probability of igniting an international political threat to world peace, where does your mind go? Many would argue that China or Russia are the two of main threats to international cooperation and stability. Others may say that the Middle East or North Korea presents the most evident danger to geopolitics and how the world is run. However, I’m going to disagree with those people and say that Venezuela, a country in Latin America, is the biggest threat to geopolitics and world peace in 2021. Venezuela is the current holder of the most extensive oil and gold reserves globally, along with many other minerals, which makes it a territorial treasure in the world. On top of the critical position that Venezuela presents to the region, this amount of mineral holdings makes it an essential spot in the world to maintain peace in geopolitics.

Our question today is how such a quiet country can cause one of the most significant geopolitical crises in the world. Venezuela went through six steps that constantly placed this Latin American country on the world’s agenda. I call these six criteria the “Theory of Six”, which helped me understand major geopolitical crises globally. However, this theory has been widely discussed in international politics as part of neorealism, in which power is the most important factor in international politics. Essentially, this article evaluates how countries with a high geopolitical risk actually have a lot of power in the international order due to their crisis situation. I’m using an empirical methodology to go from the basic facts, information, and data to explain a major political assessment and situation. My work in this article is to join the understanding of a “risk” with the understanding of geopolitics, and how the geography, population, and resources of a country could ignite a potential threat. For a country to qualify for this theory, it must (1) be rich in a specific resource or several, (2) have an exponential increase in emigration, (3) have multiple world powers involved, (4) have an autocratic government, (5) have a current, defined and constant opposition and (6) must have a geographical advantage to other countries. 

For example, Syria qualifies in this theory. This country was in the interest of the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France for its petroleum reserves and the massive immigration it has. The Syrian crisis displaced more than 5.6 million Syrians as other countries played with the territory, breaking the country’s natural sovereignty. Apart from that, it was clear that the United States and Russia had an invested interest in Syria due to the geographical location in the Middle East. Syria’s place is perfect for the rest of the region’s political control, as it presents a great deal of influence to their neighbors from the long history of culture and war they have exported. Syria’s government switched bases to an autocratic government to face the crisis and the war it had. The natural sovereignty of the country, along with the democracy, was lost to maintain a peace that was never found. The fifth step is the defined opposition, which was clear for the world: terrorism. It’s the main reason why the war started and the main reason it hasn’t ended, which eventually led to the most important steps in this specific case. Without it, the immigration diaspora wouldn’t have ignited, apart from switching to an autocratic government and the invested interest of other global powers. 

A case in which the theory of six does not apply is North Korea. This infamous country in Asia does not qualify for one of the points, as it has reached a no opposition status. In the early 50s, the country quickly suppressed major oppositions, and after the war, it created the propaganda of unity and semblance in the government. However, North Korea does qualify for the other five steps, starting from the important geographical influence it has in the region. Its natural location is a threat to South Korea, Japan, Guam, and most importantly, China. North Korean waters put other countries in the Korean sea to checkmate, and being in the middle of two countries presents a natural threat of coexistence. The parallel 38 is by itself one of the most protected frontiers in the world, having a huge military influence even if called the “Demilitarization Zone.” Moreover, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia have had North Korea on their international agenda since the Korean war. There’s no guarantee to the international community of peaceful and coexisting actions from the Korean government, as the state’s nationalism and protectionism have reached very extreme levels. North Korea has natural land for farming and cattle, but more importantly, the Korean Sea has one of the most intact reservoirs of fish in the world. The non-existing effect of globalization made the North Korean sea empty of international corporations that could exploit the area’s enormous potential. North Korea’s exponential immigration step is unclear and unanswerable, as it’s almost impossible to leave the country without going through a dangerous situation. It would be unfair to compare this point to other countries where immunity in immigration has prevailed. 

After quickly explaining a case in which the theory of six applies and does not apply, it’s easier to open the explanation of why Venezuela does not only qualify for all of the points, but it exceeds the necessary parameters of each step; making it one of the most critical geopolitical risks in the world. Venezuela is the current holder of the most extensive reserves of oil, natural gas, and gold in the world. These resources create importance for the reliance on the world’s technology and evolution in Venezuela, which since the early 1900s exported its natural resources worldwide. The Latin American country alone, with its vast 300 million barrels of oil, can supply the world demand for the next 12 years alone.  However, Venezuela is also a holder of some of the biggest reserves of cobalt, iron, bronze, and newly found uranium, which in the hands of an autocratic government, it’s always a threat. Moreover, Venezuela is one of the richest countries in the world for farmland, fisheries, and cattle. It holds 5% of the most productive farmlands in the world and is the owner of 1/3 of the Caribbean Sea along with some of the biggest fish reserves in the world. Venezuela also is one of the countries with more biomes in the world, presenting the most diverse faunas and floras. It’s also the owner of a big portion of the Amazon, which is often called the lung of the world. And if you think this is not enough, Venezuela had one of the most significant industrial systems globally, making one of the biggest influencers of industrialization to Latin America and the United States throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Ultimately, those resources made Venezuela the 4th wealthiest nation per capita for almost 15 years between 1950 with the government of Marcos Perez Jimenez until 1964 with the entry of Romulo Betancourt and the increase of Venezuela’s foreign debt. 

Venezuela’s territory has a natural advantage in the world, being surrounded by mountains, jungle, and sea. In the past, Venezuela’s geography made it impossible for other countries to invade the territory. However, this is not the main focus of why Venezuela qualifies for other countries’ geographical advantage. Venezuela is currently the owner of “La Isla de las Aves” translated to English as “Bird Island.” This small plot of sand is just a few hundred miles away from Cuba, granting Venezuela ownership of most of the South Caribbean Sea. This ownership is essential as many of the world’s sea transit goes through these waters to reach the Panama Canal. It surrounds most Caribbean islands, limiting their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and interrupting trade in the region. Venezuela also has a long history of territorial disputes, especially with its neighbors. Currently, it is in contention with Guyana, which is called the “Reclamation Zone.” Through crooked deals and mistakes from the government of Venezuela, the British have taken advantage of this territory, which is almost 1/5 of Venezuela’s original geography. The importance of this territory for both the British and the Venezuelans is the ownership of the vast oil resources it has and the barrier it presents to Trinidad and Tobago in their EEZ. 

 Venezuela also complies with the step of having a current, defined, and constant opposition. The MUD (the Democratic Unity Roundtable) was the last big coalition of the opposition in Venezuela, made to win the elections in which they were subject to massive fraud. After years of losing to the autocratic government, the opposition decided to split into several political parties again, due to differences in how the Venezuelan situation should have been handled. However, this political opposition has always been constant, defined, and current as massive protests headed by these political groups happen every year. Apart from that, there’s a social opposition to the government coming from the wide disapproval of Maduro’s government. Currently, only 13% of the population approves. However, this doesn’t seem to matter as the government persists in being one of the biggest countries with human rights violations and the lowest in the democracy index. 

Venezuela has also been in the eyes of the international community, as more than 50 countries have expressed their disagreement with the government. The United States in Trump’s administration has presented a special interest in Venezuela, especially in some sort of intervention. The Venezuelan situation through the eyes of the United States government  is well explained in The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton. It’s seen by the Security Advisor as one of the major global threats to international peace with invested interests by Russia, China, and the Middle East. However, Bolton’s handling of the Venezuelan situation has been widely criticized as he believed a diplomatic option was going to be “the best option;” in contrast to military intervention. 

Russia’s interest in the Latin American country comes from an economic and political point of view. Large investments have been made by the European country which have never been repaid, as well as a natural interest in the country’s resources. Nevertheless, Russia’s interest has been increasing since the opposition took power in the National Assembly in 2015. By the constitution, all economic deals from the government must pass through the legislative power, and since Maduro’s government doesn’t recognize the legislative as legitimate, all economic actions from 2015 to 2021 from Maduro’s government are considered illegal. This only means Russia’s long-lasting economic relationship with Venezuela is hanging from the opposition’s will to repay the unfair and massive debts in which Russia has dug Venezuela in. The political interest from Russia in Venezuela comes from a similarity in ideals, which created an epicenter for socialism in Latin America, exporting its ideals to neighboring countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, and even all the way up to Spain with Podemos

The last step in order to complete the theory of six is that the country in question must have an autocratic government. Venezuela is considered by the Democracy Index an authoritarian regime, placing at 143 of 167. Apart from this, it’s widely discussed that the Venezuelan government is a Narco State, a drug dealing cartel that took political power from the government. The massive human rights violations, political prisoners, the low freedom of speech and the illegal mining in Venezuela are cases in which the country is being exploited by a criminal gang in power. 

Venezuela has matched the six steps that I outlined at the beginning of this article, steps that are widely used to evaluate geopolitical risks. The Latin American country has a massive economic and human potential for the region; however, the big diaspora of the country caused by immigration is stopping it from going any further. Immigration has positively affected the other countries in the region, as the default jobs in Latin America had been filled by  Venezuelans. Nevertheless, it has caused destabilization in other countries in public services, even reaching xenophobia to Venezuelans. The exportation of Gold and Uranium is affecting the global economy in ways we are not aware of, as currently, Iran is the main buyer of Venezuelan Uranium in order to maintain their nuclear program. From a more international perspective, the United States, Russia, and China are playing chess with Venezuela trying to decide the fate of the crisis after the authoritarian government leaves the country. However, President Biden has been clear of his stand of Venezuela, no intervention will be done to the Latin American country. Sanctions are still in place in spite of the quick adaptation of Maduro’s administration to them, illegally trading oil and minerals with the Middle East. 

Venezuela is quickly becoming a threat to international peace and stability in the Latin American region. Other countries in the world have addressed the importance of Venezuela’s situation, however, it’s impossible to determine how far it can go. In my honest point of view, the country is being handled by an unlawful government that was not democratically elected. The illegal exportation of Uranium and Oil apart from the massive immigration should have already directed the world into taking stronger actions in Venezuela. However, Venezuela has also been in the shadows for too long. Many years without global attention have left Venezuela an open door in order to export socialism as an ideology to neighboring countries which are currently supporting the regime. There must be action, or at least a stronger international call, to act upon Venezuela diplomatically. Venezuelans, including me, want to return to their country without facing the biggest crisis in modern history