The massive business shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of jobs to be lost. In the case of Venezuelan migrants, faced with a lack of resources to survive far from home, some have decided to return to their country of origin. Upon arrival, however, they are mistreated, discriminated against, and encounter serious problems in health management. In addition, the Nicolás Maduro regime uses the return of these citizens for political ends.
“The Maduro regime is wielding propaganda in which it invites its citizens to return to Venezuela, where they will supposedly receive medical care and be taken to hotels to quarantine, and then continue their journey to the places where they lived before, but the reality is different,” Ronal Rodríguez, a researcher at the Colombian Del Rosario University’s Venezuela Observatory, told Diálogo.
“Some of the migrants have to undergo checkups for possible coronavirus infection. Those who go through this protocol are taken to schools, sports venues, even warehouses that do not even have access to drinking water, which makes it almost impossible to really manage the disease,” Rodríguez added. “That is, instead of being a containment measure, it is a measure of infection.”
“These centers are not run by health personnel, but by regime officials who are not properly trained, resulting in cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment,” said Rafael Uzcátegui, coordinator of PROVEA, a Venezuelan nongovernmental organization that advocates for human rights. “Only those who have severe symptoms are tested. These locations have no proper infrastructure or sanitary equipment to treat basic health conditions.”
Rodríguez and Uzcátegui explain that Venezuelans also face discrimination upon arrival, since the regime takes advantage of the situation to promote its political views.
The government claims that the return of Venezuelan citizens is not because of the pandemic-generated economic crisis. Jorge Rodríguez, Venezuela’s vice president of Communication, Tourism and Culture, told the press on April 6 that Colombia was using the humanitarian corridor “to sneak in paramilitaries, deserters, and mercenaries who wanted to bring trouble to Venezuela.”
“To symbolically clear out any connection with Chavismo, they say that there are Colombian terrorists among the groups of returnees to legitimize the isolation and mistreatment of migrants,” Uzcátegui said. “Some [regime] spokespeople state that Venezuelans return because they realized the ‘goodness of socialism.’”
According to Rodríguez and Uzcátegui, only economic migrants return, and not those who have experienced political persecution. “Those who return were working in the informal economy sectors, and due to [unemployment] circumstances they cannot carry out any economic activity, which leads them to go back home,” Rodríguez added.
“However, the regime says that Venezuelan migrants are back because they were victims of xenophobia, and that they are part of the opposition to destabilize Venezuela and damage the results of the COVID-19 pandemic management,” Rodríguez said. “It is all a farce, used to justify the medical system’s demise; that is, to claim that the return of these Venezuelans was what destabilized Venezuela.”