Venezuelan emigration is a continental political challenge … 2/25/21

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The diplomatic world moves slowly, but when it does it can be surprising. This week the European Union, after a long time inactive in this regard, sanctioned 19 regime officials for undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. It is clear that the democratic world rejects, repudiates and sanctions the Venezuelan regime and there is no way to hide it, disguise it or minimize it, although some in the “opposition” try. The regime reacts annoyed, as it hoped that its Spanish partners would lead the way to removing the US sanctions. At the same time, the terrible Venezuelan situation is spreading uncontrollably across borders, and anti-Venezuelan marches have now even been seen in an important capital of South America. This occurs within a framework of pandemic and major economic crisis throughout the continent. This situation will eventually have repercussions, considering also that Venezuela is considered a major regional hub for drug trafficking and terrorism. The themes of the week are “Understanding EU sanctions”, “What it means to be an emigrant” and “The political challenge of emigration for all of America.” 

Understanding EU sanctions

The EU sanctions are a mixed package that include regime officials and also opposition politicians who have worked together with the Venezuelan regime in recent elections. That was a surprise for many of these and shows how many Venezuelan politicians are unaware and/or work in isolation from the outside world, here they ignored the universal repudiation of the elections held in December. 

There is a negotiation process underway, where the EU is somehow involved, and elements of this have been appearing lately. The European Union identifies that there are several oppositions, but it is clearly aligned with the Guaidó-López opposition and the NA. It will also be necessary to see how the Venezuelan regime, very close to the Spanish component of the EU, will react to the sanctions on its personnel. The negotiation that the EU seeks is not easy at all: the regime has always used the talks just to buy time, the EU does not recognize the results of the last two elections and that has produced a Venezuela where there are several oppositions. Likewise, the EU faces time constraints, if it does not achieve results in a reasonable period of time, the new administration in the United States will be forced to act. 

What it means to be an immigrant

Being the son of immigrants, having lived many years in another country and being my children also forcibly emigrants, I have gained experience and perspectives on this issue. Being an emigrant is always difficult, you will always be different, it means living as a second-class citizen in the country to which you emigrate. It is a reality that must be understood and with which one must learn to live and overcome. As the volume of emigrants increases, they will include good people and also bad people and this is inevitable and the latter are surely the ones who will generate the most news. In the Venezuelan case, we must add (1) that there is no emigrant DNA, after the discovery of oil we were a country with wealth that needed and had space for those who came from outside – a country of immigrants, (2) the volume of emigration is gigantic, surpasses any previous Latin American experience and (3) has been combined with the appearance of the most terrible pandemic in the last 100 years, which is shaking Latin America and the rest of the world emotionally and economically. It is very painful to see how the death of Venezuelans is being reported in different countries and from different causes, but the magnitude of emigration and the existing conditions make this inevitable. Somehow it is necessary to achieve better conditions for the emigrants and also seek a more balanced coverage of the experience, also reporting positive cases and the normal majority. 

The political challenge of emigration for America as a whole

For some time now, the risks for all of America, from Canada to Patagonia, of the existing situation in Venezuela have been warned. The worsening of living conditions and the impossibility of an improvement make it improbable to stop the wave of emigration from Venezuela. The mass arrival of so many Venezuelans to different countries has collapsed fragile social systems and services, exacerbated existing problems, and created new ones. The march against Venezuelans in Lima is the latest demonstration of the anti-Venezuelan sentiment growing among many Latin Americans. To this should be added the populist discourse of local politicians who seek to obtain revenue by stigmatizing Venezuelan migrants. The worrying thing is that it can only get worse. 

The most affected country is Colombia, which today has 1.7 million Venezuelan immigrants. Colombia has intelligently decided to regularize their situation and it is presumed that this will be accompanied by international financial support to manage the cost that this implies. The BBC has recognized it as the most important humanitarian gesture in decades and even Vargas Llosa asks countries to follow Colombia’s example and protect Venezuelans. Colombia is the main exit door for Venezuelans and with the increasing restrictions of other South American countries, it is no longer a place of transit but almost exclusively for the permanence of new arrivals. Finally, it is important not to forget that there are additionally several million Venezuelans of Colombian origin, who could arrive and would be considered “returned” Colombians and can not be rejected. 

To this explosive cocktail, we must add the risk of terrorism and drug trafficking and the intervention of global geopolitics. Noticias Caracol reminds us of this when it publishes that ELN, would have coordinated the purchase of missiles with Maduro and Russia. The situations that are in the process of worsening make achieving a regime change in Venezuela a cost that Latin Americans and the United States will eventually have to bear.

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