Venezuela is in the midst of a historic economic and humanitarian crisis that is rippling across the hemisphere. Despite the country’s oil wealth, decades of corruption and mismanagement have left much of the populace struggling to buy food and medicine. Nearly four million Venezuelans, or 10 percent of the population, have fled, threatening to overwhelm the country’s neighbors.
World powers have been sharply divided in their response. The United States and dozens of other countries in the Americas and Europe believe President Nicolas Maduro is an illegitimate autocrat. They have backed opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s rightful interim president and imposed economic sanctions. Meanwhile, military and economic aid from Venezuela’s closest allies—namely China, Cuba, and Russia—is keeping the Maduro regime on life support.
Debate persists over how far the United States should go to usher in a transition of power in Venezuela. Most Democratic candidates support targeted sanctions on regime officials and diplomatic efforts to pressure Maduro to step down, but oppose broader sanctions or a U.S. military intervention. Many also criticize Trump’s deportation of Venezuelans and call for granting them temporary protected status, which would allow them to live and work in the United States.
Meanwhile, a number of other foreign policy challenges loom across the region. In Central America’s Northern Triangle countries—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—violence, corruption, extreme climate events, and poverty are pushing a record number of migrants to make a treacherous journey north to seek asylum in the United States. In Brazil, a new government has opposed international attempts to curb deforestation in the Amazon, which scientists say is accelerating climate change. In Colombia, a peace deal that ended the long-running civil war is under considerable strain. Mexico is facing potentially its deadliest year on record as its security forces focus their efforts on migration rather than the drug trade. And in Argentina, the specter of renewed economic crisis may lead to yet more political turbulence.