Updated: Mar 16, 2021
“We walked for 11 days and had to sleep outside. We left because they threatened to kill us. My brother was killed… They almost killed me”
-Ana, Venezuelan woman in Ecuador
“It took us over seven days to reach Peru. We had nothing to eat at the end. We tried
to spare all for our son, but he also went over 24 hours without a bite. He is only three.”
-Gerardo, Venezuelan father in Peru
Venezuelans have been going through hell. Here is what you need to know and a couple of ways you can help.
For the past 20 years Venezuela has been governed by the socialist PSUV party. Hugo Chavez was president from 1999 until his death in 2013. He was succeeded by his right-hand man, Nicolás Maduro. Throughout their reign the PSUV gained control of many key institutions including much of the judiciary, the electoral council and the Supreme Court. Under President Maduro, Venezuela's economy collapsed. More than 5 million were forced to leave when shortages of basic supplies became widespread.
In 2018 Mr. Maduro was re-elected. However, the opposition side boycotted the polls and caused a massive crisis. The government had a large number of candidates barred from running while others were imprisoned. Some fled the country to avoid sentences. Hence, the opposition claimed that the poll was “neither free nor fair”. The National Assembly didn’t recognize Mr Maduro's re-election; it even called him an "usurper" and argued that the presidency was empty. On 23 January 2019, the National Assembly stepped in, and Juan Guaidó declared himself acting president, starting the Venezuelan presidential crisis by challenging Nicolás Maduro's presidency. Today, both political parties consider themselves as the leading one. More than 50 countries recognised Mr Guaidó as the legitimate president, among them the US and many nations in Latin America. But Russia and China among others stood by President Maduro.
Because of this political division Venezuelans live under inhumane conditions. Precisely, they have been struggling with power cuts, poor water supply and shortages of petrol, cooking gas and lack of basic hygiene and food items for years. For instance, women are not able to afford or even find birth control, prompting them to illegal abortions (that most likely end up killing them).
To avoid this chaos, Venezuelans have been immigrating mostly towards other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. However, most of them have been stranded without jobs, shelter or healthcare. Venezuelans, who remain without any documentation or permission to stay regularly in nearby countries lack guaranteed access to basic rights. This makes them particularly vulnerable to labour and sexual exploitation, trafficking, violence, discrimination and xenophobia.“We left everything in Venezuela. We don’t have a place to live or sleep and have nothing to eat.” says Nayebis Carolina Figuera, a 34-year-old from Venezuela who fled to neighbouring Brazil. Now, in an attempt to help, Colombia’s president Ivan Duque announced that his government will grant temporary protection to almost 2m Venezuelan migrants and refugees.
This compassionate and pragmatic decision will help tens of thousands Venezuelans who seek what some of us take for granted. Colombia's humanitarian act is a model one and deserves international support. Also,the UNHRC works closely with local authorities and the private sector and supports the provision of vocational training to Venezuelans. It supports the relocation of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the Brazilian state of Roraima to other parts of the country where there are more employment opportunities and services.
The situation is critical and Venezuelans need our help.
If there is any way you can help, by donating, getting in touch with organizations, spreading awareness etc. please do!
WAYS TO HELP