Thousands of Venezuelans Call for Asylum Worldwide
The Venezuelan crisis is not a myth. Just take a look at the numbers of Venezuelans seeking asylum throughout the world to understand that it is easier to…
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Thousands of images have traveled the world, where Venezuelans face cardboard shields against the National Guard, in a desperate attempt to change the government and get out of a so-called "economic crisis."
The most skeptical people still think it is an attempt of foreign intervention, with the melancholy of believing that the famous US Condor Operation is still in effect, and that the Bolivarian Revolution of Chavismo is the anti-capitalist ideological model, a communist fantasy that so many would like to see established in countries even from the old continent.
But if Chávez's dream was real, why do more than 52,000 Venezuelans prefer to give up everything than to stay in "socialism"?
The United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that during the first months of 2017, up to 52,000 Venezuelans filed asylum applications worldwide. "These data represent only a fraction of the total number of Venezuelans who may need international protection," the agency said.
According to a report by the Spanish Commission for Refugee Assistance (CEAR), Venezuela was the main source country for asylum requests in the European country during 2016, with a sum of 3,960 requests, "a very relevant figure if one compares with the 596 Venezuelans who applied for asylum in 2015," El Mundo reported.
As the UNHCR report continues, the numbers are similar in other destinations. 300,000 Venezuelans in Colombia, 40,000 in Trinidad and Tobago, and up to 30,000 in Brazil, could be in the same circumstances of displacement, "since many are not registered as asylum seekers, even though they indicate that they fled from violence and insecurity, as well as because of the inability to meet their daily subsistence needs."
The specific figures for asylum applications are in the following order:
- United States (18,300)
- Brazil (12,960)
- Argentina (11,735)
- Spain (4,300)
- Uruguay (2,072)
- Mexico (1,044)
UNHCR has decided to strengthen its response to the growing number of Venezuelans seeking asylum, working with local governments to "strengthen registration and profile identification, reception capacity and provision of basic humanitarian assistance."
This type of response is due to the serious conditions in which Venezuelan displaced people arrive and the risk they face when they join communities without the required support. According to the agency, "in some areas, armed groups and criminal gangs exploit newly arrived Venezuelans and the local population."
A BBC report showed the conditions in which Venezuelans arrive in Boa Vista, in Brazil, when they flee from the crisis. More than 6,000 Venezuelans sought asylum in the small city in northern Brazil, escaping the crisis and offering to work "in anything." The community had to adapt a local gymnasium as a refuge, where many families, of indigenous majority, are housed.
"Volunteers and Civil Defense workers fear that the flow of Venezuelans will continue to grow and soon they will not be able to help them all," Katy Watson reported in the media.
The case of Venezuelans in US territory is also an "alarming" trend. According to national reports, "Venezuelans are now the main foreigners who are seeking asylum in the United States, even over citizens from China, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador," CNN said.
More than 14,700 Venezuelans sought asylum in the United States during fiscal year 2016, equivalent to an increase of 160% compared to 2015, when only 5,605 people with a Venezuelan passport applied for the refugee status.
Explaining the current situation of a country that was once considered "Saudi Arabia of America,” is complicated.
The oil boom with which Hugo Chávez received the country in 1999 is a long lost memory. Since 2008, the fall in oil prices, embezzlement and the irresponsible nationalization of national companies, resulted in a 76% public debt and an external debt of 69.9% of GDP. In addition to the blockade of foreign exchange - through a violent and disorganized exchange control - the shortage of products began to empty the Venezuelan shelves of essential supplies for survival (staples and medicines).
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Venezuelan inflation reached 724% by the end of 2016, predicting that it will reach 1,660% by 2017. This economic crisis has caused that 9.6 million Venezuelans can only eat two or fewer times a day due to the shortage and the devaluation of the currency, according to the survey "Conditions of Life" ENCOVI 2016.
Simultaneously, violence in the hands of government-armed paramilitary groups - known as the Chavistas Collectives - and the structuring of a narco-state by government leaders have transformed Venezuela into one of the most violent countries in the world.
During 2016, the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV) estimated 28,479 violent deaths, fueled by "the shortage of products and services" that has "fomented conflict in society", which encouraged the emergence of a new phenomenon: widespread rise of violence by hunger.
According to the OVV report, Venezuela ranks second among the countries with the highest lethal violence in the world, with a rate of 91.8 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
To make matters worse, the Venezuelan criminal justice system was invaded by corruption and political radicalization, where partisanship and militancy are the only way to obtain work in the public sector.
For a country accustomed to prosperity, international openness and to being the fate of so many immigrants, the reversal of circumstances in such a short time has been the darkest chapter in its democratic history.