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(Venezuelan Analysis, AVN English, Telesur English and Prensa Latina English) – Venezuelan authorities have denied the existence of a humanitarian crisis of Venezuelan migration in the region on a press conference held last Wednesday August 29th, blasting the reaction from neighboring Latin American governments to the recent migration of Venezuelans as “hypocritical” and “xenophobic.”
Whilst not disputing the heavy rise of Venezuelan immigrants, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez claimed that the issue was being manipulated to further the political objectives of regional right-wing governments to topple President Maduro. He also alleged that international press outlets have reported “fake news” on the issue to smear the Caracas administration.
Quoted UN figures suggest that 2.3 million Venezuelans (7.5 percent of the population) currently live outside the country, of which 1.6 million (5.2 percent) have left since 2015. However, many mainstream media outlets have used figures exceeding five or even six million.
This international context has produced several consequences in the region. In Brazil, authorities have reported that groups of angry residents roamed a border town hurling rocks at venezuelan immigrants and setting fire to their belongings.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza released a statement on Saturday August 18th, condemning the “dangerous matrix of xenophobic opinions,” that affected venezuelan migrants in neighbouring Brazil.
“We are concerned at the massive eviction of our nationals, a fact that violates International Law norms in addition to violating their human rights,” the statement reads. The Venezuelan government has contacted Brazil’s Foreign Ministry “to request the corresponding guarantees to Venezuelan nationals and take the measures of protection and security of their families and belongings,” Arreaza continued.
Ecuador’s government has called recently for a regional conference to be held to discuss the increasing flow of Venezuelan migrants across Latin America. The announcement came as both Ecuador and its neighbour, Peru tightented entry requirements and border restrictions, in moves analysts claim will only exasperate problems of criminality and illegal immigration.
The Ecuadorian Ombudsman”s Office considered openly discriminatory the measure imposed on Venezuelans interested in entering this country with an ID card, which must be validated by international bodies.
According to the organization’s website, the decision, announced by the Foreign Ministry, is aimed exclusively at citizens of the neighboring nation and is contrary to the Constitution and the Organic Law on Human Mobility, besides affecting the right of these people to migrate.
In contrast, Venezuelan Minister Rodriguez drew a comparison between the immigration policies of the region’s right-wing governments and that of Venezuela, which has received around 6 million Colombians fleeing the country’s fifty-year civil war, as well as 600,000 Ecuadorians and 500,000 Peruvians in recent years.
Defending his country’s immigration policy, which has been commended in the past by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Rodriguez highlighted that Venezuela has never declared a “humanitarian crisis” nor requested international assistance in dealing with the volume of newcomers, which far exceeds the numbers currently entering other Latin American countries.
Likewise, last August 30th several buses coordinated by the Venezuelan government transported 185 emigrants based in Brazil, including at least 13 minors, who returned to their country. After crossing the border through the southeastern state of Bolivar, the group moved to a care center until returning to their regions of origin.
They were brought to their houses by a new plan promoted by the Executive that seeks to facilitate the safe return of those that are victim of xenophobia, hate crimes and violation of human rights.
The Maduro administration contrasted the recent attacks against Venezuelan migrants to its own open door policy which has seen foreigners benefit from free health, housing, education, and food programs. Venezuela has generously welcomed the sisters and brothers of other countries, offering them all the benefits that the Bolivarian Revolution provides to all people equally.
While some regional governments and the mainstream media exacerbate the migrant flow, and depict a picture of total chaos in Venezuela, the Government of Venezuela has informed the international community that on August 27th, 89 Venezuelans who had crossed the borders in response to false promises and lies, returned to the country from Peru.
Some returnees recognized a campaign of disinformation about better conditions when crossing the border. The reality with which they met was very different from what they were offered: they report being subjected to untold humiliations, to cruel and inhuman treatment, to infamous signs of xenophobia and hate crimes. This group of Venezuelans contacted the authorities of their embassy to request support in order to get their repatriation.
“I never found a job. I was a street vendor and I made my life out of that,” one young man who benefited from the repatriation program says in a video posted on YouTube. “I was interviewed by the consul… and I was helped.”
Another young man says: “Thinking that everything is perfect as portrayed on social media, everything looking beautiful, people telling you to go and find a place there, but no. I had the doors closed everywhere for being Venezuelan. If they steal, it’s a Venezuelan. Everything bad here is because of a Venezuelan.”