Tuesday, July 5

Venezuela, from receiving immigrants to exporting refugees


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The Venezuelan migrant and refugee crisis reached the dramatic figure of 5.6 million people. The legacy of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro has been shipwrecked and walkers. The largest flow of exiles on the continent has not been caused by a natural catastrophe or a conventional war, but by a tyranny responsible for hunger, misery, violence and crimes against humanity. Venezuelans in Colombia represent the fourth largest city in that country and Lima is the city with the most Venezuelans outside of Venezuela, with more than 800,000 people. The total of Venezuelan displaced people worldwide exceeds the population of countries such as Norway, Ireland, Costa Rica or New Zealand. In fact, 15% of the population of the islands of Aruba and Curaçao that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands is Venezuelan. And 80% of the women who are giving birth at the Erasmo Meoz Hospital in Cúcuta are Venezuelan, while 70% of those who give birth at the main hospital in Boavista, Brazil, are also exiled. The statistics of this human landslide could be infinite in terms of its impact and dimension, but staying only in facts and figures would be very cold for this migratory flow that is projected to be the largest on the planet in a few months.

How much does your stomach have to burn with hunger to jump into the water in search of food? How collapsed does the public health system have to be for hundreds of thousands of mothers to go to give birth to other territories? How much have they tortured and repressed young people and students so that with a backpack they decide to walk a whole container detaching themselves from their parents? It is the horror that is lived today in Venezuela. According to the Cartagena Declaration, a refugee is one who flees his country due to disturbance of public order, generalized violence, violation of human rights and foreign aggression. All of these, including foreign aggression (there are at least 20,000 Cubans in Venezuela), apply to those fleeing Maduro. Venezuelans need protection. They deserve opportunities to study, undertake and work. Their rights, such as access to health, must be guaranteed, especially in times of pandemic. Integrating Venezuelan refugees would not only benefit them, but also the host country, since its economy would be positively impacted, as World Bank studies have reflected, which is not a minor issue due to the recession that many countries are experiencing. as a result of the Coronavirus.

Just last week there was an international donor conference to respond to the Venezuelan refugee crisis. It was possible to raise 1,500 million dollars between cooperation by 2021, plus loans and credits in the medium term. An estimate that we have made in the OAS Working Group is that vaccinating Venezuelans against Covid in Latin America and the Caribbean would cost 165 million dollars, barely 11% of the proceeds. In other words, there should be no excuse to immunize them without discrimination based on their nationality or immigration status. In addition, the important regularization processes that countries such as Colombia, Peru, Brazil or the Dominican Republic implement could be streamlined after the conference and replicated in the region. As well as a greater effort to eradicate xenophobia is imperative where all authorities, from local to national, promote policies that avoid aggression, insults or offenses towards these people.

The prolongation of the illegitimate regime has made Venezuela go from being a receiving nation of immigrants to an exporter of refugees. During the second half of the 20th century, it is estimated that about 4 million immigrants they found a new home in Venezuela where they studied, worked and made a family. A country that always opened the doors to Europeans who fled the Second World War or communism and to Latin Americans and the Caribbean who fled dictatorships and armed conflicts. Now it is Venezuelans who need a new home without the world forgetting that the only solution to stop this monumental migratory flow is by reestablishing a democratic system, with full freedoms, the rule of law and security.

David Smolansky is the coordinator of the OAS Working Group for the Crisis of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees in the Region

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