Pandemic has worsened the plight of many in Latin America. With economic stability gone, xenophobic rhetoric taking over minorities, poverty struck, health care limited, there is one group of people that suffer double the blow of the pandemic. They are Venezuelan Migrants and refugees. Today there are over millions of Venezuelans displaced all over Latin America. Some of them are fleeing the horrors of the economic spiral in America while others are seeking refuge in Colombia, where the Venezuelan refugees are most prevalent with a staggering number of 1.7 million refugees.
5.4 million Venezuelans have fled the country since the year 2015. They escaped their home country in the hopes of getting a life away from the Bolivarian regime that exacerbated the inequality, violence, poverty, lack of medical care, and food in the country. The loss of jobs, power, homes did not spare even the doctors of the country. Many had to seek asylum and refugee statuses to save their lives from both poverty and violence soaring in Venezuela. Today 5 million people live across various parts of Latin America and this is considered one of the biggest and largest displacement crises in the world. Currently, seven million Venezuelans are in desperate need of help and humanitarian assistance from various donors and sponsors. They need food, health care, nutrition, and even protection.
What Exactly Happened In Venezuela?
The Venezuelan migration crisis is also commonly known as the Bolivarian Diaspora. This Diaspora is no longer hidden and is recorded the worst migration and refugee crisis to date. With the presidencies of Hugo Chaves and Nicolas Maduro, came the Bolivarian Revolution. To call this revolution a disaster in the face of Venezuelan history, as well as the world’s history, would have been a rather huge understatement.
Venezuela was one of the richest countries in the world. Venezuelans from the 50s grew up enjoying the richness and lushness of the country only to hit rock bottom in their old age. The country went from being an attraction for migrants to becoming a country full of people running away to neighboring countries. People would rather sleep out on the streets of Brazil and Spain rather than go back home. The recession in Venezuela is no joke. The overwhelming pressure and xenophobia they feel from their host communities are better than what they experience in their home country.
Some people might think the description of the recession in Venezuela might be an exaggeration, but we only wish it were. The hyperinflation is so outrageous that their minimum wage is not enough to afford even meat or other basic necessities. The prices are increasing by every hour and doubling or tripling the wages has zero to no effect on affordability. Mayors are taking hefty charges from business owners, leaving them bankrupt and the murder and gender violence has soared to an unbelievable point. Currently, the new minimum wage in the country is only seven million bolivares which are equivalent to USD 2.50. According to the Central Bank of Venezuela, inflation has jumped to 53,798,500% since the year 2016.
Year of political corruption and opposition resistance and arming with violence has led to a high mortality rate in the country as well. Many have died in thousands in various parts of Venezuela for opposing the Bolivarian authoritarian regime. Despite the regime’s enabling the major human rights violation, the crisis is still ongoing. Many supporters of the regime are quick to say that the economic war is only a result of the drop and fall in oil prices. Venezuela is home to the largest oil reserves and the world’s 8th largest natural gas reserves. It is not the price drop in oil and gas the reckoned with the economy but the authoritarian regime that chaos held in the country. They looted business, took over the private sector, stripped farmers and factories to the bare bones as they devastated an entire country.
The covid 19 has not helped the plight of Venezuelans in both Venezuela and in other neighboring countries situated in Latin America. Over 90% of Venezuela live in poverty that is further alleviated by the conditions of the Pandemic. Millions are starving, fighting for food, sanctions, and medical resources to stay alive. Some of them are risking their lives at various borders and over the sea to escape the horrors of the economic recession, even if it meant overwhelming taxes of the neighboring countries.
The covid 19 pandemic only increased the number of people displaced and expelled over various corners of Latin America. Many are crossing borders unauthorized, risking their lives for the sake of access to health care services, basic nutrition, and escape domestic violence as well as the raging violent death in Venezuela. As of 2020, the country has witnessed 11,000 violent deaths as a result of the authoritarian regime. Many Venezuelans are also unable to get a hold of their financial instability even after migration because of their undocumented status in many regions. Many feel the compulsion to take drastic measures to enter countries such as Peru and Ecuador as the country stops many Venezuelans at their borders. Hundreds are stranded at these borders and suffer various discriminations.
However not all hope is lost for Venezuelans. With the pandemic, many Latin American countries have taken initiatives to support their neighboring country, Venezuela by offering them easier access to refugee status and programs to alleviate their pain. On 31 January 2021, Colombia announced its plans to accept over a million migrants living without papers in Colombia who will be able to get protected status up for ten years. This will help many who have illegal immigrant status become legal in the country and this also applies to those who are already legal migrants, meaning that they do not have to apply for any additional visa renewal and so on.
The news comes with waves of gratitude for more than 900,000 Venezuelans as it opens up their opportunities to earn a better income and have better places to live in Colombia. Brazil still has a hold on its borders and has not opened up the opportunity for documentation for Venezuelans as a result of the pandemic, meanwhile in countries like Peru and Ecuador, multiple efforts have been taken to strategically support Venezuelan migrants and reduce their vulnerabilities in the face of the pandemic.