Venezuela Weekly: Region Forges Agreements on Venezuelan Migration

[Due to my schedule, the Venezuela Weekly will be published mid-week from now until the end of 2018]

A regional meeting in Quito regarding the Venezuelan migration crisis, led to a declaration signed by eleven countries, with a number of provisions. The most important of them were the agreement of the countries to accepted expired Venezuelan identity documents from migrants, and the establishment of a regional program for exchanging information in collaboration with the International Migration Organization. Participating countries agreed to hold another meeting the second week of November which would seek to reinforce the ability of the Andean Community (CAN) and the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR) to address the crisis.

The Center for Human Rights at the Andres Bello Catholic University applauded these advances as well as commitments to guarantee access to health, education, work and justice, as well as the commitment to combat the illicit trafficking of migrants. But they pointed out several gaps in the declaration: avoidance of the terms “refugee,” “statelessness,” “international protection,” the “principle of non-refoulement,” as well as description of long-term solutions.

The Quito meetings were preceded by reports released by Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). Both reports called for a coordinated response and call attention to the potential refugee status of Venezuelan migrants. HRW calls for a region-wide “temporary protected status.” AI, in its six page letter, urged participating governments to work together with United Nations agencies to implement the strategies of the Global Compact on Refugees. The letter includes a detailed interpretation of existing agreements on refugees that “demonstrates that the Cartagena definition of a refugee should be activated to address the Venezuelan refugee crisis.”

  • The Permanent Council of the OAS will discuss the Venezuelan migration crisis today, September 5. This meeting will likely have more political jousting than problem-solving, as the US and Venezuela will both be at the table this time. It is rumored that a group of countries will present a resolution regarding the situation in Venezuela and that they think they have the 18 votes needed to pass it.
  • European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini said that the European Union has decided to step up diplomatic efforts to work for a resolution of the Venezuela conflict, in particular working with neighboring countries that are suffering from a wave of migration.
  • The Maduro government continues to portray news of the wave of out migration as an “anti-Venezuela hate campaign” orchestrated by the region. It has organized a “Return to the Fatherland Plan” to bring Venezuelans home who feel abused in their host countries.

Economic Control and Human Rights

  • The Fatherland Card (Tarjeta de la Patria (TP)) continues to gain force as the Maduro government’s main mechanism for social control (Cronica.uno has a solid history of its implementation over the last two years here). Yesterday the Socialist Party (PSUV) proposed that the TP be given Constitutional status and be required for all economic, political and social activities in the country. Human rights group PROVEA has called for resistance against this strategy and highlights the actions of pensioners that have successfully done so.
  • The government stumbled into the rollout of its new plan to charge international prices for gasoline but subsidize it for those with a TP. Long queues formed in border states where the plan is being rolled out.
  • In the ten day since new economic polices were implemented, 131 people have been arrested for violating the new rules in some way, and thereby trying to “destabilize the economy.” This includes managers from several large chains of stores, accused of “speculation” and “hoarding.”
  • On August 31, anti-government journalist Jesus Medina was detained and sent to the Ramo Verde military prison for incitement of hatred, money laundering, criminal association and obtaining illegal profits for acts against public administration. The first charge was based on his highly-critical reporting including for the web site DolarToday.com. The latter charges were based on his receiving payment for his work for foreign media companies, in foreign currency and exchanging it on the parallel market.
  • IPYS Venezuela has published an analysis of five cases of judicial pursuit of dissidents in Venezuela which suggests an eight step sequence through which “fake news” and conspiratorial narratives are promoted using state media and social media, to portray those detained as terrorists or conspirators and or expose them to public ridicule.
  • On August 30, the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights released a statement rejecting the arbitrary detention and violation of due process in the detention of opposition National Assembly deputy Juan Requesens.

Opposition articulation

The Venezuelan opposition continues meetings to try to hammer out some sort of agreement that would permit coordinated action. UCAB political scientist Benigno Alarcón says the definition of leadership and strategy in the opposition is an urgent task. “Without unified leadership it is impossible to achieve the level of coordination needed to mobilize the society in the massive and coordinated way necessary to generate adequate internal pressure.”

How Low Can this Go?

A couple of pieces warn that there is no natural “rock bottom” for Venezuela to hit, nor any guarantee that the ever-worsening crisis will lead to regime change. In the Financial Times, Gideon Long describes a “hollowed-out” Venezuela and I describe the eerie feeling of a capital that seems like it is permanently on a holiday break. In Foreign Policy, Frank Mora points out that scarcity and out-migration could help Maduro keep control.

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news digest 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.