Still Room in the Lat-Inn: South American Countries Response to the Venezuelan Migrant Crisis

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Written by Brecken Denler

Millions of Venezuelans flood out of their home country to anywhere that will take them.  As the tide of migrants increases the responses of neighboring countries is varied.   How other countries respond will greatly influence the end result of the crisis.  A number of examples are explained below.

Colombia: Colombia has recently sworn in a new president, Iván Duque, who replaced Juan Manuel Santos.  Both Santos and Duque have spoken to the necessity of international effort in the response to the crisis.  Santos, just as he left office, also granted a temporary two year visa status to the 440,000 Venezuelan migrants in the country.[i] President Duque believes that more efforts should be made to stabilize the situation within Venezuela and has harsh words for Nicolás Maduro.[ii]  Colombia continues to be welcoming to refugees accepting them with expired documents or without passports entirely.  Venezuelans may stay, study, and work on an easy to access temporary basis.[iii]

Ecuador: The Ecuadorian economy is under strain.  Ecuador has its own history of currency problems and therefore currently uses the rising dollar as the national currency.  This ensures monetary stability but means that goods are more expensive and the economy overall less controllable by the government.[iv]  Therefore, the Ecuadorian government is more weary at accepting the flood of Venezuelan migrants—this year reported at over a half a million[v]—at the border.  Ecuador only accepts migrants with current passports that will not expire in the coming months.[vi]

Perú: Perú’s former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was both harsh on Maduro and kind to Venezuelan migrants.  Peruvian policy long held that Venezuelans could enter the country with nothing more than national identification cards.  After Martín Vizcarra ascended to the presidency there was a short time of more restricted entry which has now been replaced to the more liberal standard.  There are special visa programs and government accommodations that allow for migrants to find legal accommodation and work quickly.[vii]

Conclusion: There are places for Venezuelans fleeing the economic collapse to go.  Latin America has widely been accepting of the professionals escaping Venezuela.  There are some notable exceptions.  Violence has broken out against migrants on the Brazil-Venezuela border[viii] and overall sentiment in some countries is anti-immigrant.[ix]  Time will tell how nations continue to act as the crisis continues.

[i] Al Jazeera. 2018. “Colombia: Santos Grants 440,000 Venezuela Refugees Two-Year Help.” GCC News | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera. August 2. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/08/colombia-santos-grants-440000-venezuela-refugees-year-180802193510580.html.

[ii] El Pais. 2018. “Duque Expone Sus Planes Contra Maduro.” El Pais. July 1. https://www.elpais.com.uy/mundo/duque-expone-planes-maduro.html.

[iii] “Colombia Regulará La Situación De Más De 150.000 Venezolanos Que Han Llegado Al País.” 2017. CNN. Cable News Network. July 28. https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2017/07/28/colombia-regulara-la-situacion-de-mas-de-150-000-venezolanos-que-han-llegado-al-pais/.

[iv] Bartenstien, Ben. 2018. “Wary of Past Defaults, Ecuador Charts New Course.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg. September 26. https://www.bloomberg.com/markets/fixed-income.

[v] Phillips, Tom. 2018. “More than Half a Million Venezuelans Fled to Ecuador This Year, UN Says.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. August 10. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/10/more-than-half-a-million-venezuelans-fled-to-ecuador-this-year-un-says.

[vi] Baddour, Dylan. 2018. “Ecuador Shuts Its Border to Venezuelan Refugees amid Historic Exodus.” The Washington Post. WP Company. August 20. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/ecuador-shuts-its-border-to-venezuelan-refugees-amid-historic-exodus/2018/08/20/28223fec-a48c-11e8-ad6f-080770dcddc2_story.html?utm_term=.d63abe249209.

[vii] Gedan, Benjamin N., and Nicolás Saldías. 2018. “Latin America Has an Open-Door Policy for Venezuelan Refugees.” Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy. August 23. https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/23/latin-america-has-an-open-door-policy-for-venezuelan-refugees/.

[viii] Phillips, Dom. 2018. “Brazil Calls in Army after Mob Attacks on Venezuelan Migrants.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. September 2. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/02/brazil-army-venezuela-border-migrant-crisis-attacks.

[ix] O’Neil, Shannon K. 2018. “A Venezuelan Refugee Crisis.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations. February 15. https://www.cfr.org/report/venezuelan-refugee-crisis.

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