Venezuela Weekly: As Migration Surges, Regional Commitment Is Tested

Migration has spiked since the announcement of new U.S. sanctions in early August as well as after Ecuador’s announcement that it would be requiring a visa. This visa requires official documents as well as a certified criminal background check, a $50 application fee and an in-person interview.

Thousands of Venezuelans crossed into Ecuador in the final days before the measure took effect–13,000 from Saturday to Sunday. Heretofore Venezuelans could visit Ecuador for up to six months with just their ID card. Ecuador estimates that 300,000 Venezuelans live in the country, about one-third of them without regular status. By the end of the year they say the number could reach to 500.000. Perhaps more important, Ecuador is a key transit point for those migrants continuing on to Perú and Chile.

Forty regional human rights groups, members of the “Working Group on Venezuelan Human Mobility,” published a statement criticizing Ecuador’s measure suggesting it does not take into account the difficulties Venezuelans face in obtaining official documents. The statement suggests Ecuador’s new law points to a regional problem.

Unfortunately, the type of visa that Ecuador imposes on Venezuelan people is not a new response in the region. It is part of a regional trend that contradicts the political commitments that the same states made during the Quito Process—a multilateral initiative which started under the leadership of Ecuador where different countries assumed, among others, the commitment to seek migratory pathways; combat human trafficking, discrimination and xenophobia; and develop access to procedures for the determination of refugees in favor of the Venezuelan people.

  • Human rights group Dejusticia filed a motion in Colombia’s Constitutional Court against limitations on access to health care among Venezuelans with irregular status. While Colombia provides access to Venezuelans who have the two-year special permit (PEP) over half of Venezuelans in Colombia do not have the PEP.
  • A coordinated effort by ten countries of the region will provide to Venezuelan migrants a regional vaccination card beginning in October. According to the officials of the participating countries, the card will improve the healthcare of the Venezuelan migrants, as it will offer them the needed vaccines and ensure that they are not given double doses.

Shuffling towards Barbados

Observers close to the negotiation process suggest there could be a new round of meetings next week. Guiadó confirmed that there had been discussion with Norwegian diplomats to start up another round. The Maduro government insists that it is ready to have talks with its opponents, including the U.S. government, and it is asking for mutual respect.

  • Guaidó sent a letter to the seven countries that participate in the 45th G7 summit in France and asked them to discuss the Venezuelan crisis while he argued that Russia and China (China is member of the G7, Russia was suspended from the G8 in 2014), have a negative role in the Venezuelan crisis.
  • A civil society initiative including human rights lawyer Pedro Nikken and Rector of the Catholic University Father Jose Virtuoso S.J. crossed political boundaries to express their support for the continuation of negotiations. They rejected any solution that includes violence or foreign imposition and urged a prompt political agreement for a democratic solution.

Opposition Torque

  • While Guaidó and his inner circle work towards negotiations, the difficulty of his coalition was on display when Ivan Simonovis, former police chief and political prisoner and now Guaido’s commissioner for security and intelligence issues, declared that all members of the Chavista’s governments that have participated in criminal activities eventually would go to jail. His example was Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz. Other hardliners demand from Juan Guaidó to allow the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to enter the country and capture those of the government who are involved in drug trafficking.
  • An investigative piece by Reuters explains why the attempt to generate a split or rebellion in the military is so unlikely to succeed. For over ten years Cuban advisors have helped the military create intelligence operations that detect and isolate dissent and keep everyone off balance.

International Engagement

  • U.S. Envoy for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, suggested the U.S. would accept a new unity government under Guaido even if it included Chavista leaders, but not strongman of PSUV Diosdado Cabello, ex-vice president of the Republic Tareck Al Aissami or others that are accused of serious crimes by U.S. justice.
  • A likely victory by Kirchnerist candidate Alberto Fernandez in Argentina’s presidential elections will likely lead Argentina to leave the Lima Group of countries pressuring for a return to democracy in Venezuela. Fernandez said that he would support dialogue as Mexico and Uruguay have done. WOLA’s Geoff Ramsey said “I think Argentina could play a more effective role in promoting a more democratic solution if they join with the international contact group, instead of these hollow calls to dialogue that we’ve seen from AMLO.” Uruguay is part of the International Contact Group originally promoted by the European Union that has been working for new presidential elections since February 2019.
  • Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, announced that she would go Havana to discuss the Venezuelan problem with the Cuban government.
  • After the publication of the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), UN organizations are ramping up their efforts. UNICEF announced that it is seeking US$70 million to assist 900.000 Venezuelan children with access to safe drinking water, vaccination, health treatments, and distribution of educational material.

Human Rights

  • In its regular monitoring, human rights group Foro Penal has reported that there are 522 political prisoners in the country, and 8884 people subject to arbitrary criminal proceedings and cautionary measures. The number of political prisoners has decreased steadily in recent months, after it reached a peak of 989. Nonetheless, the number political prisoners are significantly higher than the political prisoners that the NGO had reported before the 2019 political conflict (2018 ended with 278 political prisoners).

Economy

  • The Russian state oil company, Rosneft, has an increasing role in Venezuela’s oil sector. Reuters reports that Rosneft has become the main trader of Venezuelan crude, with two-thirds of the Venezuelan oil passing through it. Part of the Venezuelan exports to Rosneft goes to service loans. The increasing volume of transactions between the two companies has reduced PDVSA’s debt to $1.1 billion from $3.1 billion in September 2018.
  • This comes as China’s imports of Venezuelan crude have declined by more than half, even before the ramp-up of U.S. sanctions in August.
  • According to recent estimates in 2019 remittances could reach $3 billion, while others put that figure higher to $6 billion. Nevertheless, economists say inflation in dollars is real. If someone needed $110 for subsistence at the end of 2018, by the first semester of 2019 she needed $750.

Violence

  • Artists are painting murals to try to change the image of some of Caracas’s most violent neighborhoods.