AQ Feature

Meet 10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela

Rebuilding Venezuela will require a diverse mix of people with great talent and realistic goals. AQ's new issue profiles 10 of them — and takes a hard look at the challenges ahead.
T.J. Kirkpatrick

This article is adapted from AQ's print issue on Venezuela after Maduro | Leer en español

No one knows when or how Venezuela’s dictatorship will fall.

As this issue went to press, the country was preparing for a May 20 election that hardly anyone expected would be free or fair. With most opposition candidates effectively banned, no credible international election monitors and almost all independent media silenced, nearly half of Venezuelans were telling pollsters they didn’t plan to vote at all.

The hemisphere’s other dictatorship, Cuba, shows how oppressive leaders can hang on for decades longer than anyone expected. Nicolás Maduro’s regime has shown a willingness to jail or even kill its opponents.

Nevertheless, it is unclear whether any government can withstand hunger, hyperinflation and violence of the sort currently seen in Venezuela. The end could come in 20 years; it could also come tomorrow.

As a result, this much is clear:

Now is the time for Venezuela, and the world, to be planning for what comes next.

Putting the country back together will require an audacious, carefully calibrated domestic and international effort. Twenty years of chavismo have destroyed the economy and what was once one of Latin America’s most vibrant democracies. The healthcare, education and judicial systems are also in tatters. Venezuela will need a diverse set of people with leadership skills and — just as important — a realistic view of what is possible.

On that front, there’s good news. This issue of AQ profiles 10 people who we believe will be key to rebuilding Venezuela. They include an expert in humanitarian aid, a famous musician and a small business owner. Taken together, they are testimony to the extraordinary human capital at Venezuela’s disposal when the right circumstances finally arise. Their experiences, ideas and proposals provide a rich roadmap to recovery.

We intentionally reached beyond some of the usual suspects to focus on a new generation. Like most people in a country with a median age of just 27, they have lived most of their adult lives under chavismo.

They fully understand its horrors, but they also realize a majority of Venezuelan society once supported its goals. What comes next cannot be based solely on pro-business economists’ ideal models, or a doomed attempt to restore the Venezuela of the 1990s.

Our list includes one foreign leader — Xi Jinping of China, with a compelling explanation of why. Yet the reality is that fixing Venezuela will require a huge swathe of the international community including the rest of Latin America, the United States and multilateral institutions, armed with tens of billions of dollars, sober planning and an ability to move quickly.

It would be great, of course, if Venezuela’s current government would consider some of these proposals to alleviate its people’s suffering. But sadly, all evidence suggests recovery will have to wait until after Maduro. Whenever that day may come.

Brian Winter
Editor-in-Chief, Americas Quarterly

10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela: The Humanitarian

Susana Raffalli made relieving hunger her life's work. She never thought she’d have to do humanitarian relief in her own country.

10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela: The Oil Expert

Once the lifeblood of the economy, Venezuela's oil industry is in a tailspin. Gustavo Baquero has a plan to fix it.

10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela: The Captain of Industry

Empresas Polar CEO Lorenzo Mendoza is the face of a private sector that has had to adapt to survive.

10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela: The Politician

In exile in Washington, David Smolansky has become a young ambassador for Venezuelan democracy.

10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela: The Economist

Asdrúbal Oliveros gives Venezuelans an unvarnished view of the economy – and what it will take to get it back on track.

10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela: The Educator

Venezuela's schools are literally falling apart. Teachers like Mónica Kräuter are keeping the foundations intact.

10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela: The Rights Advocate

There are currently more than 200 political prisoners in Venezuela. Alfredo Romero is their advocate.

10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela: The Foreign Leader

Why Xi Jinping's China may have more at stake in Venezuela than any other global power.

10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela: The Musician

Gustavo Dudamel is perhaps Venezuela's most famous export. Here's how he and other Venezuelan cultural icons can help their compatriots build bridges.

10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela: The Entrepreneur

Thousands of talented Venezuelans have already left the country. Luring entrepreneurs like Marielena Polanco back will be critical to recovery.

How a New Generation of Leaders Can Save Venezuela

The roots of Venezuela's crisis run deep – at least to the 1970s. Here's why a renewal of leadership and ideas is so important.

A 180-Day Plan for Venezuela

Change may take time, but researchers are already thinking about what Venezuela will need to recover once Maduro is gone. This is one way a transition back to democracy could play out.

Who's Who in Venezuela's Opposition?

A look at 10 leading opposition figures reveals discord and distrust among Maduro's opponents.

Photo Essay: Venezuela's Deepening Crisis

Venezuelans cope with hunger, disease and separation from their families.

Where Is Venezuela's Diaspora?

Venezuela's crisis has prompted one of the largest migration flows in Latin American history. Here's a graphic look at where they've gone.
oil thumb

This Graphic Sums Up Venezuela's Oil-Dependent Foreign Relations

International ties play a major role in Venezuela's domestic affairs. A look at the foreign powers with the biggest stake in the country's future.
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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.

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