The Role of Water Scarcity in the Venezuelan Predicament
Stephens, William Ryan
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Venezuela is a nation in decline. Despite vast petroleum reserves, decades of disastrous policies enacted by increasingly authoritarian regimes led to socioeconomic and political descent, including increased poverty, food insecurity, and rationing of water and electricity. Recently, Venezuela’s tailspin has coincided with a severe multi-year drought, ranging from 2013 to 2016. This study seeks to determine the effect of this drought on the current turmoil in Venezuela, examining the oft-debated theory that environmental scarcity may cause conflict. This assessment begins with a review of the relevant scarcity-conflict literature, which highlighted the importance of both environmental factors and water management policy when evaluating water scarcity. With this important bifurcation in mind, the study uses a quantitative assessment to determine if there is a statistical relationship between drought and intrastate conflict in Venezuela and Syria. Case studies provide a more nuanced assessment of socioeconomic factors and the effectiveness of water management during times of drought. Ultimately, the quantitative data did show a minor relationship between drought and political stability in Venezuela and Syria, particularly when accounting for the delayed effects of drought. The case studies highlight the importance of effective water management policy in addressing drought. Years of neglect and ineptitude left Venezuela with a deteriorating infrastructure, insufficient for proper water and electrical management prior to the 2013 drought. While the data suggests that the drought did aggravate the situation in Venezuela, it became increasingly apparent that preexisting infrastructure deficiencies were largely responsible for water scarcity and thus played a much greater role in the current situation.