Ecuadorian border town struggling to cope with exodus conducted in accordance with financial collapse and political turmoil

Nicolas Maduro has maligned the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing across the Andes as gullible” slaves and tramps” defrauded into scour foreign toilets by antagonists of the Bolivarian revolution.

The United Society said 2.3 million people, more than 7% of Venezuela’spopulation, have left the country since 2015, with most heading to Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Half a million have arrived this year in Ecuador alone.

But when Daniel Luquez, an unemployed carpenter, start out from his home in the city of Guanare in July he was not, as Venezuela’s president recently scoffed, chasing” the sugars” of “peoples lives” abroad. He was fighting for his daughter’s life.

Two-year-old Jolismar was diagnosed with thoracic cancer last year after physicians knew a small lump near her center. On Tuesday, and after an arduous three-week journeying across Colombia, her leader arrived in the Ecuadorian border town of Tulcan determined to earn the money to support his ailing daughter as she experiences chemotherapy back in their rapidly deciphering nation.

” Getting here was tough, but I have to battle for my family ,” said Luquez, 27, who hitchhiked and hobbled virtually 1,200 miles to Ecuador. Six years ago his left leg was amputated as a result of a vehicle crash.

Daniel Luquez, 27, hurtled 1,200 miles and is one of more than 500 000 people who have spanned into northern Ecuador this year. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

Luquez is one of the more than 500,000 Venezuelans “whos had” bridged into northern Ecuador via Colombia this year as his country’s migration crisis intensifies. Regional authorities struggle to cope with the humanitarian and political fallout from one of the largest mass movements in Latin American history.

The exodus appears to have accelerated in recent weeks with almost 43,000 Venezuelans streaming into Tulcan over Rumichaca Bridge in the first 14 days of August alone.

Jose de la Fuente, the regional head of the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, said the number could touch 100,000 by the end of this month.” I don’t think anybody imagined a crisis of this width ,” he said.

Map 2

Andrea Obando, who is leading the humanitarian response for Tulcan’s town hall, said even 50 years of conflict involving Colombian paramilitaries and insurgents had not pushed so many beings across the border.

Maduro, who came to power after Hugo Chavez’s death in 2013, has struck a rebelliou color after the recent attempt to assassinate him, detaining political foes and vowing to revive Venezuela’s nosediving economy.

” I want the country to recover and I have the formula. Trust me ,” he said in a broadcasted address on Friday, announcing a major money reduction numerous economists say will stimulate the situation even worse.

Crowds of Venezuelan migrants wait to cross into Ecuador on the Rumichaca bridge. Photograph: Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent for the Guardian

But with no indicate of the financial or migratory crisis easing, Venezuela’s neighbours appear to be losing patience.

Brazil, which has taken in tens of thousands of Venezuelans, briefly sealed its northern frontier in early August, with regional permissions claiming they could no longer cope.” If we carry on like this, by the end of the year we will have lost control of the city ,” warned the mayor of Boa Vista, which is near the border.

On Saturday, indignant Brazilians set fire to migrant campsin the frontier municipality of Pacaraima and thrust about 1, 200 Venezuelan immigrants back over the borderafter a restaurant owned was robbed and stabbed- supposedly by Venezuelans. The Venezuelan foreign ministry expressed concern over the attacks and urged Brazil to protect the immigrants and their dimension. Brazil said it would transport extra units to the Roraima border to counter the unrest.

Earlier this year, Chile and Colombia introduced measures designed to deter Venezuelans from coming, and this week Ecuador and Peru followed suit, announcing they would only admit those with passports, something many need because of the commotion back home.

Ecuador’s decision was denounced by activists as unconstitutional and inhumane. But it will please some in Tulcan, a picturesque but economically depressed settlement of about 60,000 inhabitants.

Hundreds of them marched through its streets on Thursday, requiring urgent action from President Lenin Moreno to rescue its economy and slow the influx of Venezuelans, some of whom can be sleeping rough and pleading in ballparks and squares.

Hundreds of neighbourhoods take to the streets of Tulcan, Ecuador to protest against the newcomer of thousands of Venezuelan migrants. Photograph: Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent for the Guardian

” You offers an opportunity to five, 10 or 20 Venezuelans but you can’t help … 10,000 ,” said Jairo Pozo, a business owner behind the declaration, alleging” these Venezuelan gentlemen” of stealing Ecuadorian jobs and wallets.

Marco Sanchez, a 32 -year-old demonstrator, said he was disturbed by the presence of” those kinds of party”, claiming:” Mints of parties basically come here come to steal .”

Obando said she was concerned about rising xenophobia and blamed local media for sensationalising a handful of offences committed by Venezuelans. Depriving incomers had committed some inessential crimes, she said, but added that official anatomies devoted lie to claims Tulcan was in the control of a crime wave.

She said Ecuador’s ” arbitrary ” decision to bar passport-less Venezuelans would strand numerous in Tulcan or push them into the mitts of parties smugglers. Experts already knew of 25 smuggling roads around the town, she said: “This is going to skyrocket.”

That Venezuela’s exodus will continue is obvious from the tales of despair that bristle on Rumichaca Bridge, where thousands assemble each day en route to a brand-new life and a Jehovah’s Witness volunteer has made a sign posing the question on everyone’s mind:” When will the agony result ?”

Yemila Urribarri, a 42 -year-old psychologist from Maracaibo who is fleeing to Peru with her 14 -year-old son, Jhoel. Photograph: Tom Phillips, Latin America correspondent for the Guardian

Yemila Urribarri, a 42 -year-old psychologist from Maracaibo who is fleeing to Peru with her 14 -year-old son, said her country was disintegrating.” There are children dying of hunger ,” she said, her sees glazing over with tears.

AndresChacin, a 21 -year-old politics graduate who was Argentina-bound, said his generation had also lost hope:” 80 per cent of your best friend have already emigrated .”

With Maduro clinging on and Venezuela’s opposition fractioned, Chacin said he accompanies international push as the only chance of change.” Vladimir Putin will decide[ what happens ]. Xi Jinping will decide. Latin American governments will decide. Nobody else ,” he said.

Others on the bridge had most extreme suggestions.” There’s only one room to solve this: kill him- a missile on Miraflores ,” said Alex Ribero, a gold-miner from Ciudad Bolivar, referring to the presidential palace.

A group of backpackers from Germany and New Zealand gazed on in skepticism having unwittingly stumbled into the humanitarian emergency.” I’ve never been part of something like this … I has no such idea what we were going to be coming into ,” said Ashleigh Mcquarters, a 32 -year-old accountant who was among the crowd queuing to enter Ecuador.

Over coffee and cake , now unthinkable luxuries back home, Luquez echoed starting his expedition in July with less than a dollar in his pocket. He swept into Colombia at the town ofArauquita and initially planned to stay in Bogota . But he vacated Colombia’s capital after being accosted by a neighbourhood resident who told him ” venecos”, a derogatory statement for Venezuelans, were not welcome.

Daniel Luquez in Tulcan. Photograph: Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent for the Guardian

On his crutches, Luquez hitched and hiked his road south through Cali, over Ecuador’s borderline and finally to Tulcan where he sells sugareds on street corners from 7am to 7pm to help pay for his daughter’s treatment.

” It’s hard. You lead three or four epoches without … and if you do take a bath it’s in a flow … I never reputed I’d go through something like this. I never guessed I’d have to leave my country ,” he said. “Never.”

That night Luquez retired to the shabby $50 -a-month hostel where he has rented a area with help from an international charity. He logged on to its wi-fi network and typed a word into his phone.

” My family is the most important thing to me ,” it spoke.” You don’t know how much I care they were here with me .”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here