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Venezuelans in Iquique: Illegal Immigrants or Refugees?

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Unfortunately, we have witnessed one more chapter of the already lengthy Venezuelan drama which, as it was predictable, affects peace, stability and hemispheric security. Of course, there will be some critics who will tell me that migration waves are a normal phenomenon in the post-Cold War world, which is also very true. But these waves of migration have mostly responded to internal crises and violence generated by civil wars or famines in Africa. However, the Venezuelan case has been largely the fault of the lack of will and determination—if not complicity—of the American governments themselves.

In this sense, today I will go back to the years of the beginning of authoritarianism in Venezuela. I would like to begin these lines by recalling the words of the then OAS Secretary-General, César Gaviria Trujillo, who had to face the first crisis of Hugo Chávez’s government in 2002. In his last visits to the country during his sterile mission, Trujillo said that “Venezuelans’ problems are solved by Venezuelans.”

This was, in my opinion, a ridiculous statement, coming from the highest inter-American body in charge of watching over, protecting democracy in America. That phrase ended up being the principle in which regional governments treated Chávez, excluding, of course, Alvaro Uribe who quickly denounced early on the great threat represented by Chávez. The rest were the accomplices who, with no moral stature, turned a blind eye before Chávez’s abuses in exchange for a few barrels of oil among other “gifts.”

This great “club of sycophants” was integrated into its great majority by the Caribbean Island-States and their major partners, Castro, Lula, Evo, Correa and the gozón bishop (Lugo), with a little more distance Bachelet and Tabaré Vázquez.

Again, the inaction on the part of the then administration of George W. Bush, which was focused on the war against terrorism in the Middle East and the complicity of the vast majority of Latin American governments, is to a large extent, that powerful factor that allowed this neo-communist criminal horde to seize power in Venezuela. All that we see today, that historic and unprecedented migration that today numbers almost 6 million people, is the consequence of not activating the Democratic Charter of the OAS and pretending that the Chavista criminals would leave power through diplomatic mechanisms, as was recently attempted with the Lima Group when the leftist winds in Latin America changed.

But again they were ineffective because it is only through the application of legitimate force or the threat of resorting to it that can eventually generate a real change in the complex and lamentable Venezuelan reality of today. Venezuela was an oil country, with great infrastructure development, an educated society, with a thriving and professional middle class that has been reduced today to misery, where the vast majority of the population lives in the most abject poverty, with their dignity sullied and their freedom co-opted.

The logic is that those who resist “living” under these terrible conditions have only two paths left: suicide or flight. Those millions who have fled and will continue to flee constitute a true wave of refugees, they are people who desperately need protection, therefore, the current institutional approach of States and international bodies (UN and OAS) should be the treatment of rigor for a humanitarian crisis. The scale of the flow of people fleeing from hunger and neo-communist mafiocracy in Venezuela, I repeat, around 6 million people, require the treatment of this nature and not place it as illegal migration.

What happened recently in Iquique is not new, it already happened in Brazil’s Manaus. In any case, what reality demands is that the Government of Sebastián Piñera can make a quick effort to regularize the situation of Venezuelan refugees in Iquique as the rest of Chile, supported by the experience of President Iván Duque of Colombia who has been expeditious in this matter.

In closing, I take this opportunity to congratulate these Venezuelan brothers who are living in squares, parks and even on the beaches of Iquique, I congratulate them because they had a brave attitude, they clung to dignity and freedom, emphatically refusing before the bureaucrat sycophant of chavista, Arevalo Mendez the unworthy ambassador of Maduro to the Government of Chile, who offered him a flight to Maiquetía (Venezuela) through the program “Return to the Homeland.”

Nahem Reyes is a PhD in history from the Andrés Bello Catholix University and associate member of the American Studies Center of the Central University of Venezuela. // Nahem Reyes es doctor en Historia de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello y miembro asociado del Centro de Estudios de América de la Universidad Central de Venezuela.

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