The Venezuelan Migration and Refugee Crisis: A discussion with three refugees

by Migration and Refugee Policy Initiative

Academic Activism Food Lecture Political

Mon, Mar 27, 2023

5 PM – 6:30 PM EDT (GMT-4)

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Join us for a discussion on the Venezuelan migration and refugee crisis, the largest refugee crisis in the Americas, from the lens of three Venezuelan refugees. To date, over 7.1 million people have fled the country, due to violations in human rights, a collapse of basic services, and insecurity. Making it the largest exodus ever seen in the Americas. At the event, panelists will reflect on their unique experiences living in and fleeing Venezuela, as well as share their insights into the causes and hardships migrants and refugees experience daily.

Panelists will include Rafael Alfonzo, a current MSFS graduate student, who has served both as a Political Advisor at the Venezuelan Embassy and as an advisor to the Vice President of the National Assembly in Venezuela. As well as the authors of “It Suddenly Occurred to Me”, Carlos P. Beltran and Yadira Silva, a book documenting the complex economic, social, and political reality of Venezuela. The book explores this topic through the life of Yadira Silva’s writings from her time in the worst prisons throughout Latin America. As well as Carlos P. Beltran’s photography from his investigative reporting in-country. Our invited panelists will analyze the Venezuelan crisis from their lived experiences and offer a valuable perspective to understanding the conditions pushing millions of people out of the country. A background presentation will be given by David Smolansky, the OAS Secretary General Envoy for Venezuelan Migration and Refugee Crisis and former mayor of El Hatillo municipality in Caracas, Venezuela.
Food Provided


Ana Gabriela Fernández's profile photo

Ana Gabriela Fernández

PR and Communications Advisor of Humanitarian Action

Ana has over 10 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and abroad. Born in the U.S. and raised in Venezuela, Ana currently serves as a Managing Director at Vision360 Partners, working across a wide range of practice areas including international and crisis issues to litigation and public affairs.

Ana began her career in Venezuela, serving in a variety of roles for the then Democratic Unity Bureau, a coalition comprised of the country’s opposition political parties. She worked on national and local political campaigns including the 2012 and 2013 presidential races, and the 2015 parliamentary elections. She also served as Chief of Staff for a congressman elected to represent Venezuela before the Latin-American Parliament.

Ana holds a Master degree in International Relations from the Universidad Central of Venezuela, and a B.A. in Liberal Studies from the Universidad Metropolitana of Caracas.

Rafael Alfonzo's profile photo

Rafael Alfonzo

MSFS Graduate Student

Rafael is a Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) candidate with a concentration in Global Politics and Security. He was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. Rafael has a professional background in the public and diplomatic fields.

Rafael's academic focus is international politics, conflict resolution, and international trade. Prior to joining the MSFS program, Rafael served as Political Attaché at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington D.C. and worked as an advisor to the Vice President of the National Assembly in Venezuela. His areas of expertise are global government relations, strategy, and negotiations. Rafael holds an International Business degree with a specialization in economics and social sciences from UC Panama.

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David Smolansky

David Smolansky is a former mayor of El Hatillo City in Caracas, Venezuela. His local administration was nationally and internationally recognized by its transparency and reduction of kidnapping in the most violent capital of the world. Due to human rights violations and the humanitarian crisis Venezuelans are suffering, Smolansky was one of the democratic leaders who led non-violent protests against Maduro’s illegitimate regime. He was arbitrary issued an arrest warrant, arbitrarily removed from his role as a mayor, and forced to flee his homeland. During his exile the Secretary General of the Organization of American States appointed Smolansky as the special envoy to address the Venezuelan migration and refugee crisis. He has led 15 reports and more than 20 official visits to 11 countries in the Americas advocating for policies to protect and integrate Venezuelan migrants and refugees. Smolansky holds a B.A. in journalism, and a masters in political science. Also, during his exile Smolansky has become a visiting scholar at Georgetown University, a Draper Hills fellow at Stanford University, and a Master of International Public Policy Candidate at Johns Hopkins University.

Carlos P. Beltrán's profile photo

Carlos P. Beltrán

Carlos P. Beltrán is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, producer, and journalist originally from Caracas, Venezuela. His documentary work focuses on socio-political issues, civil rights, migration, LGTBQ+ and human-interest stories in Latin America and the U.S. His work has been featured in leading news outlets including, NBC News, ABC News, National Geographic, Discovery Networks, Univision, The New York Post, Telemundo, Fusion, The Atlantic and AJ+ among others. He is presently focusing on medium and long-form documentary work and is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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Yadira Silva

Yadira Silva is foremost a mother of 4 and grandmother of 5. But she is also an activist and defender of Human Rights in her home country Venezuela. She has fought for the Human Rights of prisoner population. She is a founding member of the Voluntad Popular’s Penitentiary Network, Ventana a la Libertad, and the Gaviotas Libres plan, in which she organized and executed electoral processes in the prisons, assuring the right to vote of the prisoner population. Due to her social work, Yadira was persecuted and had to forcefully migrate to Colombia. After a rough adaptation in Colombia, Yadira decides to go to Mexico to pursue new opportunities. Yadira Silva is a former prisoner and throughout her whole life she has been a writer, just not one published, until It suddenly occurred to me.

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