Migration and Xenophobia in South America. Why the Venezuelan Crisis Matters?

Last week, increasing events have again put Venezuela in the international spotlight. A crosscutting thematic on democracy, human rights, and sovereignty are part of this complex scenario. A challenging puzzle that includes diverse key actors in the region, economic sanctions, and a growing social stigma towards the Venezuelan migrants. 

The turbulence and uncertainty in Venezuelan politics and, an historical economic crisis represented by an unprecedented hyperinflation in 2018, have incited a massive migration of Venezuelans to boarder countries. This has created a sensitive situation between Venezuelan migrants (most of them with low or no resources) and the communities’ residents where they are arriving. There is arising a xenophobic feeling that is being used by some politicians as a perfect tool to raise their own popularity. 

Regrettable events in Ibarra (Ecuador) in January 2019, and Pacaraima (Brazil) in August 2018, where Venezuelan migrants were attacked by locals after being accused of increased the crime rate -being their belongings burnt- and the public response to those actions show us how difficult is to deal with this challenge. 

In vulnerable contexts, the migrants massive arriving could create a temporal saturation of public services. Countries such as Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, are not historically prepared to receive migrants, because of their infrastructure and their own sociological culture. Taking into account that even, traditionally, those nations have had the highest rate of citizens who are immigrants within the South American region. 

Before the crisis, Venezuela received many migrants because of years of economic bonanza. Even, during many decades, Venezuela offered support for many of them. A help represented by social welfare and free access to the same benefits that the local population had and facilities to the obtain the Venezuelan citizenship. 

Democracy´s resilience, human rights defense and regional integration in the region are under test due to the challenge represented by the Venezuelan crisis. Exemplified by an exodus that in the last year, has helped to create a diaspora marked by the uncertainty about the legal status in the countries where they have arrived.  People fleeing economic meltdown and political turmoil. An ongoing crisis that has influenced to breakdown some South American regional institutions such as Unasur, and is threatening to overwhelm neighbor countries. 

The role of the Venezuelan diaspora is crucial in order to incorporate the migrants demands in diverse international forums, at promoting and defending human rights in the region, combating the xenophobia and the denigrating dealings toward the most vulnerable groups.

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Tags: Venezuela, human, migrants, rights, xenophobia.

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