Venezuelans flee to Colombia to escape crisis

15 February 2019

‘The people don’t have hope, which is why they are leaving their homes’

REUTERS

The leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, is surrounded by supporters as he leaves a church in Caracas on Sunday

The leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, is surrounded by supporters as he leaves a church in Caracas on Sunday

THE crisis in Venezuela is “overwhelming” and causing “desperate” people to flee the country, Samaritan’s Purse’s country director for Colombia, Eric Huxley, said this week.

Speaking from the border between Colombia and Venezuela on Tuesday, Mr Huxley said: “Since [President Nicolas] Maduro assumed his new term we have seen a dramatic increase in people coming over the border, and our shelters are overwhelmed. We are seeing a lot more desperate people.”

Samaritan’s Purse, an international disaster-relief organisation, is in Colombia providing mobile medical brigades, shelter to migrants, a food programme, and other humanitarian assistance to migrants from Venezuela.

Mr Huxley said that people in the country were experiencing “food shortages; but also wages can’t keep up with the prices of basic goods”, from items for hygiene to necessary medicines. “Our medical teams are giving medicine mostly to those with chronic conditions, like people with diabetes who need insulin.

“It is hard to see a change in the country; the people I meet don’t have hope, which is why they make the desperate decision to leave their homes.

“I met a guy who had walked 12 miles to our shelter from the border on crutches, and with only one leg. He was headed for Peru, and so we had to tell him that he was several weeks away. He was going there to make money on the streets so he could support his country back in Venezuela.”

Mr Huxley went on: “What I have seen is that faith is the only thing giving these people hope. They place their blame squarely on the administration. The Lord is easing the situation and helping them.

“One can only hope that that doesn’t change, because it is the love of Christ that sustains and compels us.”

Venezuela is in an economic crisis: people are affected by high levels of inflation. In recent weeks, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, has declared himself interim President, and has been recognised by the United States and most western European countries.

In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, President Maduro blamed the US government for his country’s crisis, and called them a “gang of extremists”.

He said: “It’s a political war — of the United States empire, of the interests of the extreme right that today is governing, of the Ku Klux Klan that rules the White House — to take over Venezuela. . . Do we have problems? Of course. But Venezuela is not a country of famine.”

President Maduro also said that he would not allow humanitarian aid into the country: it is currently being blocked at the border with Colombia.

Jens Laerke, from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said last week: “The ideal scenario is that humanitarian aid is provided, independent of any political or other considerations than the pure humanitarian, and that is based on need and need alone.”

The Pope has also attempted to help the situation: he met a delegation from Venezuela this week.

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