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Shannon O'Neil

What Latin America Should Tell China About Venezuela

Bankrolling the region’s biggest humanitarian disaster won’t win Beijing many friends.

Enthusiasm is flagging elsewhere in Latin America.

Enthusiasm is flagging elsewhere in Latin America.

Photographer: Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images

China’s commercial forays into Latin America are billed as a win-win: Latin America needs investment and China has money. Yet its biggest investment to date has helped to underwrite Latin America’s most serious humanitarian disaster. This undeniable reality presents an important lesson for Latin American nations: Unless the terms are changed, some money is too expensive. China’s track record also means that as the region struggles to contain the fallout from Venezuela, the Asian giant needs to be part of the solution.

The Venezuelan tragedy is hard to overstate. Its economic collapse, seven-digit inflation, and the disintegration of even its most basic infrastructure have made life desperate for its citizens. Well over 2 million have fled in recent years, and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) expects another nearly 2 million more in the coming year.