Venezuela Weekly: Region Searches for a Coordinated Response to Venezuelan Migration

As reported last week, both Peru and Ecuador announced new restrictions on Venezuelan migrants entering their national territories. The pushback regarding these measures has contributed to a push for integrated regional solutions.

The Peruvian government announced that starting August 25, border agents would require a valid passport of all Venezuelans entering the country. The Ombudsman of Peru, the director Migración Colombia, and Amnesty International all criticized the measure. The announcement led to a mad dash to cross the border from Ecuador to Peru. A day later the number of Venezuelans entering Peru was reduced by half. Many petitioned for refugee status which allows them to enter without a passport.

A judge in Ecuador emitted a 45 day injunction against the Ecuadorian government’s decision to require Venezuelan migrants to have passports to enter the country, saying such a measure violated migrants’ human rights and exposed them to greater risk. Ecuador’s Ombudsman said that after the 45 days are up Ecuador still will not be able to demand passports because the judge determined it was a violation of human rights. In response, Ecuador called for a summit of fourteen Latin American countries including Venezuela, for September 17-18 in Quito.

It is not clear if the Quito summit will happen as other initiatives are under way. On August 29, immigration authorities of the four countries making up the Andean Community (CAN) met to discuss the situation and coordinate their policies. And on the urging of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, the OAS Permanent Council has called an extraordinary meeting on September 5 on the migratory crisis. It will include presentations by the International Migration Organization as well as the UN High Commission on Refugees.

  • Commentators have also been calling for a coordinated response. In an op ed for the New York Times, focusing on the situation in Colombia, WOLA’s Geoff Ramsey and Gimena Sánchez Garzoli warn that the migratory crisis and inadequate responses could complicate implementation of the Colombian peace plan. They argue that countries in the region need “to find a solution to the needs of Venezuelan migrants and refugees that complements the [Colombian] peace process instead of derailing it.”
  • Oliver Stuenkel, writing for America’s Quarterly, gives some concrete suggestions for coordination and also suggests the creation of a fund of “several hundred million dollars to compensate those regions most affected by the crisis. At a time of economic hardship, that may seem like a lot, but the cost of inaction would be even higher.”
  • Human rights groups from across the region released a statement criticizing Peru and Ecuador’s attempts to impose new entry requirements. They called for a coordinated regional response that prioritizes the human rights of migrants.
  • Also underlying the need for a regional response is the Maduro government’s continued denial of the crisis. Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said reports of Venezuelan migration amounting to a humanitarian crisis is “fake news,” coming from racist and xenophobic governments. This week the Maduro government brought 89 Venezuelan citizens back from Peru who, it said, had been subject to cruel treatment and slavery.

International Pressure and Engagement

  • After meeting with National Security Advisor John Bolton, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio once again floated the idea that the US has a military option in Venezuela. In an interview in Spanish with Univisión on August 30 Rubio said “I believe the US Armed Forces should only be used in the case of a threat to national security. I believe there is a strong argument that can be made that at this time Venezuela and the Maduro regime have become a threat to the region and even the United States.”
  • Secretary General of the OEA Luis Almagro continues to promote the “Supreme Court in exile” and their actions, including sentencing Nicolás Maduro to 18 years of prison. Many commentators have pointed out that this “Supreme Court in exile” consists only on the 13 judges that were sworn in to replace those who had illegally been sworn in back in December 2015. That does not make for a full Supreme Court and does not take into account the other 19 judges currently serving in Caracas.
  • Strong words and actions have come from both Ecuador and Colombia. The former withdrew from the Alianza Bolivariana de los Pueblos (ALBA), the coalition founded by the late Hugo Chávez, in protest over Venezuela’s lack of political will to find a democratic solution to its conflict. The Ecuadorian foreign minister called the situation in Venezuela “unhuman” and the government’s policies “irresponsible.”
  • Colombia announced its withdrawal from the Union of Southern Nations (UNASUR), a diplomatic bloc strongly promoted and created during the administration of Hugo Chávez. Colombian President Ivan Duque said UNASUR was “the greatest accomplice of the Venezuelan dictatorship.” President Ivan Duque of Colombia repeated his stance that diplomatic efforts should aim at “isolating the regime” and demanding free elections.
  • Perhaps the biggest innovation in diplomatic approaches to Venezuela has come from Spain. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Foreign Minister Josep Borrell have said they would back any dialogue with Venezuela that works towards a solution to Venezuela’s grave humanitarian crisis.

Human Rights

  • Two teachers from the interior state of Guárico were detained for denunciations of corruption they posted on Facebook. The accusation was based on Venezuela’s Anti-hate Law. This follows a court ruling that prohibits four journalists from leaving the country as result of a defamation suit brought by Colombian businessman Alex Nain Saab. In a report published on Armando.info they accused him of being involved in corruption involving the Venezuelan government’s food distribution program. Nevertheless, all four journalists are already outside of Venezuela.

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.

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