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Understanding the Turmoil in Venezuela

On Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, over 70 people gathered at the Sky Café to examine the political and social crisis taking place in Venezuela in a panel discussion sponsored by the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Program for International Affairs, Yeshiva University’s International Club and the Yeshiva College Political Science Society.

Participants included Dr. Ronnie Perelis, director of the Center; Dr. Maria Zaitseva, adjunct assistant professor in political science; Aharon Benchimol ’21YC, a representative from the International Club; Brian Fincheltub, director of consular affairs of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C.; and Diego Area, associate director in the Adrienne Arsht Latin American Center, where he leads the Venezuelan portfolio.

Group photo: (l-r): Brian Fincheltub, Dr. Maria Zaitseva, Diego Area, Aharon Benchimol, Dr. Ronnie Perelis (l-r): Brian Fincheltub, Dr. Maria Zaitseva, Diego Area, Aharon Benchimol, Dr. Ronnie Perelis

Area began the discussion by talking about the events which have given rise to the current crisis in Venezuela. In addition, he spoke about his day-to-day life when he was working for the government’s opposition in Caracas. He was present when the opposition won the parliament back in 2015, followed by Maduro’s decision to dissolve the newly elected parliament, which Area suggested was done because Maduro saw it as a threat to his regime’s continuity. He spoke of his days in hiding after seeing many of his companions and coworkers imprisoned.

Fincheltub spoke about the work he is doing in Washington, D.C., with the opponents of the current government led by Juan Guaidó, head of the Venezuelan National Assembly and member of the opposition party Popular Will. He outlined the different mechanisms of pressure, both internal and diplomatic, that they are working on to challenge Maduro’s regime.

Once the panelists had spoken, YU students from Venezuela took the stage to share their experiences and thoughts regarding the complex situation in their home country and the struggles of starting anew in a foreign one.

(Special thanks to Aharon Benchimol for his help in preparing this report.)