( CNN) You’ve ensure the news reports: the protests in the streets, the long lines at the stores. But you may not have paid much attention to the chaos gripping Venezuela.
How are events in a socialist country of 30 million people, thousands of miles away, relevant to their own lives, you may have wondered.
Here are five reasons why the Venezuelan crisis should matter to all of us.
It’s making thousands of new refugees
The food and medicine deficits, rising costs, political instability and violence have forced tens of thousands of Venezuelans to flee. They’re now the top asylum seekers in the US, ahead of citizens from China, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. It’s the first time Venezuelans have topped the list.
More than 21,600 Venezuelans have sought asylum so far in the 2017 fiscal year. That’s virtually four times higher than in 2015, when 5,605 Venezuelans applied for asylum.
“The US has enjoyed being in a peaceful, democratic neighborhood for many years … and this could change that, ” said Fabiana Perera, a Foreign Policy Interrupted fellow at George Washington University.
Caracas, she added, “is only a three-hour flight from Miami.
A wave of new asylum-seekers would not be welcome in the current American political climate, said Christopher Reeve Linares, a freelance journalist who has covered Venezuela.
“There is a rise in xenophobia in the US, and a inundation of Venezuelans from across social strata into the country hazard local backlash and becoming pawns and scapegoats of US legislators, ” he said.
It’s an assault on democracy – and that’s troubling
Many observers say what’s gone on politically in Venezuela over the last two years is nothing less than a democratic mugging.
President Nicols Maduro stacked the Supreme court with his supporters to block any impeachment tries after the country’s opposition leaders won a majority of seats in the National Assembly in 2015.
Then the Maduro-backed Supreme Court briefly attempted to dissolve the National Assembly and acquire its legislative powers, triggering a wave of protests that have continued almost daily since March. More than 100 people have been killed.