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Hundreds flee Venezuela each day despite border closures

Between 700 and 900 people flee Venezuela daily despite the closure of the South American country’s borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to data published Thursday by the Organization of American States (OAS).

The Venezuelan exodus through irregular routes decreased with the restrictions on mobility imposed to avoid contagion, but it was not interrupted, said David Smolansky, who coordinates the OAS Working Group for the Crisis of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees in the Region.

Before the start of the health emergency, in March 2020, some 5,000 people were leaving Venezuela daily, said Smolansky, a Venezuelan opposition leader of this group created in 2018 by the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, to attend to the departure of people from the South American country to the rest of the region.

Now it is estimated that, since last September, some 700 to 900 Venezuelans have left the country every day by border trails, of which the majority go to Colombia, and to a much lesser extent, to Brazil.

“It is the largest exile crisis in the history of the region,” Smolansky said.

More than 5.6 million people have left Venezuela since 2015, according to the report, which includes figures from the Interagency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V), created within the UN in 2018.

The report identified five fundamental reasons for this mass exodus: a “complex humanitarian emergency,” “systematic violation of human rights,” “insecurity,” “collapse of basic services” and “high cost of living.”

In Venezuela, “9.3 million people, a third of the population, suffer from moderate or severe food insecurity and need assistance,” it noted, citing data from the UN World Food Program.

In addition, it accounted for more than 18,000 extrajudicial executions carried out by state security forces or groups related to the government since 2014, according to OAS investigations.

Hikes of up to 4,000 km

Venezuelans face street violence, widespread daily cuts in water and electricity services, and hyperinflation of 6,500%, according to the IMF.

Venezuela, once an oil power, is plunged into an economic and social debacle that has worsened since the arrival to power in 2013 of President Nicolás Maduro, whose legitimacy the OAS does not recognize because it considers his re-election in 2018 flawed.

“The only solution to stop this human landslide is the restoration of democracy and freedoms in Venezuela,” Smolansky said.

The arrival of Venezuelan migrants and refugees, who according to the report “walk up to 4,000 kilometers across the continent to reach another country and meet basic needs,” has strongly impacted their American neighbors.

Most are in Colombia, where there are an estimated 1,743,000 Venezuelans, followed by Peru (1,050,000), the United States (465,000), Chile (457,000) and Ecuador (431,000).

Other countries with significant Venezuelan migration are Brazil (262,000), Argentina (180,000), Panama (121,000), Mexico (102,000) and the Dominican Republic (114,500), Trinidad and Tobago (40,000), Costa Rica (30,000) and Guyana (36,000) .

“At the global level, only Syria, which has suffered a war for more than 10 years, surpasses Venezuela in the flow of migrants and refugees,” the report warned, although it said that international donations to address this crisis are ten times less than what contributed to the Syrian crisis.

According to the report, international aid for Syrian refugees averages $5,000 per person, while for Venezuelans it is $480 per capita.

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