By Ryan Velez
Venezuela is having a variety of different issues including hunger, hyperinflation, and a spiraling political crisis. The uncertainty and poor conditions are triggering an exodus, forcing neighboring countries Brazil and Colombia to tighten their borders, according to The Guardian.
Colombia, which officially took in more than half a million Venezuelans over the last six months of 2017, also plans to make it harder to cross the frontier or stay illegally in Colombia. Brazil said it will shift refugees from regions near the border where social services are badly strained.
To give a bit of a picture on the economic status in Venezuela, Filippo Martinez, a 45-year-old university researcher reckons he is among the top 5% of Venezuelans, even though he works 17-hour days on two jobs. “Even people like me in stable and professional [jobs] can’t afford the basics,” he told The Guardian. His monthly salary for working 8 am to 5 pm at the university now covers just a week’s worth of food, so he works until 1 am as a freelance consultant just to survive. He notes that friends are scattered across the region, and students leave as soon as they graduate. Martinez only stays due to the work he has invested in his current position.
“I don’t want to be an immigrant,” he says. “There’s a lot of people quitting the country with no plans, no money and no profession.”
Over the last half of 2017, the number of Venezuelans moving to Colombia jumped by 62% to about 550,000, according to immigration officials. But with illegal migration included, officials believe more than 1 million Venezuelans have moved to Colombia since the economic crisis took hold in 2015.
“Colombia has never before experienced a situation like this,” President Juan Manuel Santos said during a visit to Cúcuta, a border city of 670,000 that is the main receiving center for Venezuelan migrants. Santos directly blamed the issue on Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela. “I want to repeat to President Maduro: this is the result of your policies. It is not the fault of Colombians and it’s the result of your refusal to receive humanitarian aid, which has been offered, not just from Colombia but from the international community.
This was mirrored by Brazil’s defense minister, Raul Jungmann. “This is a humanitarian drama. The Venezuelans are being expelled from their country by hunger and the lack of jobs and medicine,” he told reporters in Boa Vista. “We are here to bring help and to strengthen the border.”