Why are Venezuelans Fleeing?
By the end of 2018, the Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) reported that 3.8 million people had fled Venezuela. In order to understand this migratory event, which began to show significant numbers as of 2014, we must ask those Venezuelans who are scattered around the world why they have left their country.
There is no single cause that would justify individual and collective decisions to migrate; however, in search for those links, it has been detected that insecurity, which is highly prevalent in Venezuela, is one of the main reasons for citizens to flee their country. Not only does it generate constant anguish, but for many Venezuelans it means putting their life at great risks, where there is no support for life. The Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia (OVV) – Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, registered that in the last 20 years there have been more than 300,000 deaths due to violence and that by 2018 there were 23,000 violent deaths of which 14,736 were murders of young people.
Additionally, the rates of violent deaths are accompanied by the social degradation that is present every day, which is not only evidenced on the physical wear of individuals, but also in the hopeless expressions of those who feel that their opportunities to succeed have been taken away from them. For many, emigrating has been the only option to find or build a future of opportunities, which would have been impossible had they stayed in Venezuela. The Encuesta Condiciones de Vida (ENCOVI) – Survey on Living Conditions, indicated that by 2017, 87% of the population was in a situation of poverty and 61.2% in extreme poverty; also, in 2018 the inflation index closed at 1,698,488.2% according to official AN data.
In 2018, ENCOVI reported that 200,000 people were unemployed in the country and that school dropout was 30% among children and young people between 3 and 24 years old, of whom 65% said that the main cause was not being able to pay for the expenses required to study. Do Venezuelans flee the country? Yes, they do it out of necessity; out of hopelessness; lack of freedom and justice.
The shortage of foods, according to official data from Banca y Negocio – Banking and Business, was 67% for 2018. Caritas indicated that by the end of last year, 90% of Venezuelan households had a poor diet; 41% of people spent the day without eating; 62% looked for food on the street in inappropriate places; 57% of children had been affected by malnutrition and the average Venezuelan would have lost more than 10 kg in weight. These indicators show the reasons why a person would seek to flee Venezuela without any safety measures, and away from what she calls home.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that, since the year 2017, there have been 3,965 cases of measles; the number of deaths due to diseases such as diphtheria and malaria reached 406,289 for the year 2017, and it is estimated that for this year, 2019, the deaths will continue to increase due to the health crisis that the country is facing. The 2019 national hospital survey reported that from November 2018 to February 2019 a total of 1,557 deaths attributable to the failure of supplies in hospital centers have been recorded in 40 hospitals; for 2018, the Manos por Una Vida foundation reported that 80% of people with HIV do not have access to antiretroviral supplies.
Why does a Venezuelan person migrate? The data presented above is only part of what could explain the Venezuelan diaspora, since the country, without a doubt, faces a complex crisis in which each link of the chain has deteriorated and rusted throughout the last 20 years, due to the systematic wrong decisions made by those who govern the country, not to mention the high rates of corruption and embezzlement that have only contributed to the progressive erosion of the nation. Venezuelans are not backpackers in search of a new adventure, they are people who forcibly flee from a system that every day suffocates any opportunity to have a healthy life with opportunities.
Migrating under adverse circumstances is never easy, and the millions of Venezuelans who are desperate to find a solution to their anxieties and fears, often have to resort to escape routes that are part of a hostile mechanism, where there are no guarantees of any kind, but that for many they represent their only hope.
The most popular route to escape from the country is through the Simón Bolívar bridge that separates San Antonio del Táchira (Venezuela) from Cúcuta (Colombia). According to Migración Colombia (Colombian migration), an estimated number of 3,000 people cross the bridge daily, where more than 60% are using this as a transit point towards their final destinations; Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina being the top destinations chosen by Venezuelans to start a new life.
Pedestrian crossing is only allowed for 15 hours per day, which implies that a person can take hours or perhaps days to try to cross over to the other side (Colombia) due to the permanent affluence of Venezuelans. And it is in those long queues where we can observe the different realities that different groups of people face during th; while some people are escaping, others are taking advantage of the situation to do business of all kinds; from selling food and medicines to offering services to transport luggage or even the purchase of natural hair.
Nevertheless, there is one service that represents a real risk, both for the providers and for the users; and that is crossing the border through the trochas (trails). The trails are alternate roads built in order to go from one country to another unnoticed before the eyes of security forces. Through these trails, people and goods are being transported, and people choose this alternate route for one reason or another, such as the impossibility of acquiring a passport in Venezuela due to its cost or the obstacles that the system presents; however, there is also all kinds of contraband circulating.
Currently, due to the tension that exists between both countries, Venezuela and Colombia, the crossing through all the legal border points is permanently closed, which means that the use or transit through the trochas is increasing, since it is the only possible option to be able to move, both for those who work on one side of the border and live on the other, or for those who are trying to escape the crisis in Venezuela.
This illegal crossing and its different paths have been built by the settlers and businessmen of the area. In order to explaining the complexity of this situation between the Venezuelan and the Colombian border, the team of Todos Ahora took the task of investigating in depth what really happens on the trails and how this affects the current situation in the region. The investigation was carried out in two periods; the first during the month of November 2018 and the second started on February 28th, 2019, that is to say, six days after the closure of the border because of the attempt to let humanitarian aid into Venezuela.