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OPINION | Duque's decision on Venezuelans sets an example | CNN

2021-02-16T21:52:12.977Z

The decision of the president of Colombia, Iván Duque, to legalize the immigration status of the 1.7 million Venezuelans who are in their country fleeing from the neighboring humanitarian catastrophe could mark a milestone in the modern history of migration in Latin America. By granting a temporary but lasting protection - ten years - to all refugees or migrants from Venezuela, it addresses with courage and intelligence a human drama with no precedents in the region. It is an example for the rest of Latin America, but also for the US | Opinion | CNN



Editor's Note:

Jorge G. Castañeda is a CNN contributor.

He was Mexico's Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2000 to 2003. He is currently a professor at New York University and his most recent book, “America Through Foreign Eyes,” was published by Oxford University Press in 2020.

(CNN Spanish) -

The decision of the President of Colombia, Iván Duque, to legalize the immigration status of the 1.7 million Venezuelans who are in their country fleeing the neighboring humanitarian catastrophe could mark a milestone in the modern history of migration in Latin America.

By granting a temporary but lasting protection - ten years - to all refugees or migrants from Venezuela, it addresses with courage and intelligence a human drama with no precedents in the region.

It is an example for the rest of Latin America, but also for the United States.

As is well known, the hecatomb caused by Chavismo has generated a migratory tide to a large number of countries, not only in the neighborhood.

By some estimates, more than 5 million people have fled Venezuela due to a number of factors.

These range from hunger and lack of medicine, to political repression and persecution, and a devastating economic crisis.

In Colombia, according to the estimates of the government of that country, there are more than 1.7 million Venezuelans, (a little more than 34% of the diaspora).

Of these, more than 966,000 are in an irregular condition.

MIRA: Iván Duque says that regularizing Venezuelans will help fight covid-19 in Colombia

Duque's decree solves all this for a decade, at the end of which those who wish to remain in the country will be able to obtain permanent residence.

They do not receive Colombian nationality now, nor will they be able to vote, but they will have access to the national health system.

It is the type of regularization that millions of Latin Americans have desired in the United States, and which is still pending in several countries in the region.

It is a decision that institutionalizes a policy initiated by former President Juan Manuel Santos, Duque's predecessor, and which now acquires city rights and international recognition.

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It goes without saying that when it comes to the Venezuelan diaspora, several Latin American countries should immediately follow the Colombian example.

In Peru, Ecuador and Chile, as well as in Brazil in a slightly different way, hundreds of thousands of exiles from the land and the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro are in a precarious situation.

Some countries require passports and visas, which are not easy to obtain, precisely because they are people who have been fleeing in abominable conditions.

In others, they are crammed into Mexican border towns, in a legal and geographical limbo: they cannot continue where they were, nor can they enter the next country.

Few have access to medical care, much less to vaccines against covid-19, and although there has been a lot of scandal in the media about the return of some to Venezuela, it seems to be a negligible amount compared to those who remain in the country.

MIRA: Biden's first steps to dismantle the “Stay in Mexico” program

But the Colombian example is not only relevant for Venezuelans.

Tens of thousands of Central Americans have left the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America —El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala—, also fleeing in recent years from a series of factors: bad governments, enormous violence, two consecutive hurricanes —Eta and Iota, in 2020-, the covid-19 pandemic and an almost chronic economic crisis.

They apply for asylum where they arrive: in the US when they get it;

in Mexico when there is no alternative.

It is well known that in the time of former President Donald Trump, the American asylum policy practically disappeared.

And faced with the overwhelming numbers of those who were forced to remain in Mexico, the response from the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been insignificant.

More than 70,000 people applied for asylum to the US from Mexico during 2019, waiting months, if not more than a year, for their application to be processed in the northern country.

US President Joe Biden announced that he is making plans to allow the gradual entry of migrants who remained in Mexico due to a policy of the Trump administration ("Remain in Mexico" or "Stay in Mexico").

It is not yet known how many immigrants they would initially classify, but the numbers of people seeking to flee Central America are huge and worrying.

According to data from the Government of Mexico, the country received some 112,559 asylum applications in 2019 and 2020, but only approved 33,703.

It is convenient to place these data in the Colombian context.

The Andean-Caribbean country has two and a half times less population than Mexico;

The US is home to eight times more inhabitants than Colombia.

If the United States accepted one million Central American refugees a year (a huge number), for ten years (something

inconceivable), the annual figure would represent 0.3% of the US population.

The total after a decade would barely come close to the already mentioned percentage of the Colombian population (about 3%).

Needless to say, the US is infinitely more comfortable than Colombia to host these hypothetical crowds.

There are many things to criticize Iván Duque.

Among others, that human rights defenders, journalists, indigenous leaders and other activists have suffered death threats and acts of violence, as a result of which the government has taken insufficient measures to protect them, according to Human Rights Watch's World Report 2021.

MIRA: Human Rights Watch points out Colombia as one of the most risky countries for social defenders

The implementation of the peace accords is not progressing.

But his decision about the Venezuelans is applaudable and more: he sets an example for Tyrians and Trojans.

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2021-02-16

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