Venezuela Weekly: Concerns about Migration

[Given the level of interest in Venezuela, we are developing a weekly Venezuela news briefing—2 pages that provide some contextual analysis and then look at the most important two or three items in five areas: human rights, migration, violence, democracy and international engagement. We are still working on our timing but it will be published each Monday or Tuesday.]

Regional concerns about Venezuelan migration

The Venezuelan exodus continues to capture regional attention. On June 13, the first Latin American Meeting of Congresses for Venezuela brought together representatives from across the region to Cúcuta to talk about the Venezuela crisis. They agreed to call on the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to coordinate regional attention to Venezuelan migrants, as well as a number of other measures. The Lima Group of countries, which have worked together since August of last year to pressure for a return to democracy in Venezuela, also meet last week to discuss Venezuelan migration. They agreed to share information and work together to diagnose the situation and develop common strategies to address it. On June 18, the presidents of trade bloc Mercosur passed a resolution calling for a coordinated response to the Venezuelan migration crisis.

  • Colombian officials reported that a nationwide census showed almost a million Venezuelans have come to Colombia in the past two years. Over half of them do not have proper documentation. Approximately, 160,000 Colombians who resided in Venezuela have recently returned to Colombia. The census points to cities where the influx has overwhelmed local infrastructure and institutions, such as Villa del Rosario, on the outskirts border city Cúcuta.
  • The Venezuelan Episcopal Conference — the governing body of Venezuela’s Catholic Church — published a press release expressing concern about Venezuelan migration.

Democracy

Nicolás Maduro shuffled his cabinet last week. The most notable move was to name the president of the National Constituent Assembly Delcy Rodriguez as the new vice president. I told the AP that this was a move by Maduro to keep himself surrounded by his most loyal allies. This is because with the opposition in disarray, Maduro’s most likely threat is from within. He has charged her with pushing forward an effort at national reconciliation.

Another interesting element is that for the first time since 2014, Maduro has reduced the number of military officers in his cabinet. This could indicate declining trust between Maduro and the Armed Forces.

  • The Carnet de la Patria will now be required to have access to the “education bonus” the government provides to families with school-aged children. This is an identification card that is required to gain access to government services and that is cross-checked at “Red Points” during elections.

Human Rights

  • 43 more political prisoners were released on June 13. While still president of the ANC, Delcy Rodriguez said the prisoners were released “in the interests of a great national dialogue … in the interests of reunion, reconciliation, and unity of all Venezuelans.” One of those released says he was banished from Venezuela, forced to immediately depart on a flight to Peru, a move that would be entirely unconstitutional. Ombudsman Alfredo Ruiz later denied that charge.
  • Provea released its 2017 report on the state of human rights in Venezuela documenting repression of protest, assaults on the freedom of expression, repression of protest and an increase in child malnutrition. In the prologue, I suggest that a terrible 2017 demonstrates the integral and interdependent nature of human rights. One reason that social, economic and cultural rights are being violated is that the violation of civil and political rights prevents people from influencing their government.

International Engagement

  • On June 11, the Venezuelan government announced an agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to purchase medicines, as a result of the visit of Carissa Etienne, its director. The Venezuelan opposition quickly responded, asking PAHO to do a real diagnosis of the situation and avoid providing the governmental with a new source of corruption. Other health professionals pointed out that there was no actual agreement signed between Venezuela and PAHO. Rather there are resources available for Venezuela and the government has decided to take advantage of them.

Violence

  • Questions are being raised about the National Guard’s role in the death of 17 young people in a Caracas club over the weekend. Authorities suggest a fight between adolescents led one of them to throw a canister of tear gas into the club and lock the only exit. But some witnesses suggest the fight was actually between National Guardsmen.
  • On June 18, a network of anti-violence NGOs called #AcciónPorLaVida delivered a manifesto to several governmental institutions, including the Ombudsman’s Office and the Ministry of Interior and Justice. It pointed out that 86% of the 21,752 homicides since 2016 were perpetrated with guns. They called on a renewed effort at gun control, increased attention to police violence, and an increase of educational, recreational and training opportunities for young people.

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news summary that is brief yet highlights concrete information. As such most of our links will be to local and regional Spanish-language press. English-language links will be highlighted in bold.

Did I miss something important or get something wrong? Let me know at [email protected]