Venezuela migration crisis: Regional governments issue declaration

After a two-day meeting focused on Venezuela’s migration crisis, 11 Latin American governments issued a declaration (Spanish language) on September 4 that, among other things, recognizes the scale of the exodus of citizens from the beleaguered nation. It also called for the “opening of a mechanism of humanitarian assistance that might allow for the decompression of the critical situation, providing immediate assistance at the point of origin to affected citizens.”

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Meeting in Quito, Ecuador, the 11 governments repeated their “preoccupation with the grave deterioration of the internal situation that causes the massive migration of Venezuelans,” and agreed to welcome migrating Venezuelans carrying expired forms of identification.

However, the group fell short of adopting more comprehensive measures proposed by Human Rights Watch on September 3, such as creating “a region-wide temporary protection regime that would grant all Venezuelans legal status for a fixed period of time.”

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has repeatedly said Venezuela is the victim of U.S.-backed “economic warfare.” Last week, senior Venezuelan officials denied the country is undergoing a humanitarian crisis.

The country’s number two official Diosdado Cabello suggested on September 9th that his country’s escalating migration crisis – described by the United Nations as one of the worst in Latin American history – is a “fad” that “gives status” which is being staged as part of a right-wing effort to undermine his government. (CNN, video in Spanish)

Speaking at a congress of the ruling United Social party this week, Diosdado Cabello implied that images of Venezuelans fleeing through South America on foot had been manufactured. (El Nuevo Herald, in Spanish)

Which governments attended the meeting?

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What are the major points of the declaration?

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The summit was attended by authorities in charge of immigration, consular policing, development and integration from Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic. Venezuela was also invited to attend but did not send any representatives.

The final declaration of the meeting — which was not signed by Bolivia for ideological reasons, nor the Dominican Republic due to an indisposition of its delegate — includes 18 points addressing the crisis from different angles, in the first meeting of its kind held with a regional focus.

The document urged to continue welcoming Venezuelan migrants in line with a sense of “brotherhood” and “solidarity”, but also taking into account aspects related to guaranteeing “security” for host societies.

After some outbreaks of xenophobia and social unrest emerged in the arrival countries — where criminal activities involving Venezuelan migrants have been denounced — Ecuador’s vice minister of human mobility Santiago Chávez, who chaired the meeting, stressed that “in all countries” they try “to reconcile two visions”. “One inclined to the protection of rights, and the other toward security,” he explained.

The declaration contains a commitment to “work with the expired documents” borne by Venezuelan citizens and to enforce assistance to minors — many of whom travel without birth certificates — in order to guarantee their “right to identity,” said the representative of the Chilean delegation, Raúl Sanhueza.

The delegate from Chile — a country to which many Venezuelans travel as a final destination — encouraged migrants to resort to a “democratic responsibility” visa, to prevent irregular situations that affect their rights.

Sanhueza also stressed that the signatories agreed to support nationals of their countries in Venezuela, as well as increase aid to countries receiving the largest contingents of migrants such as Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. (Huffington Post in Spanish)

What has international reaction been to the crisis and declaration?

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