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Attacks and Insults Greet Venezuelans Fleeing a Ruined Homeland

  • Pandemic increases hostility to the diaspora of 5.4 million
  • Xenophobia is growing in Andean countries and the Caribbean
Venezuelan migrants cross the Tachira river, the natural border between Colombia and Venezuela, as the official border remained closed in Cucuta, Colombia, on Nov. 19, 2020.
Venezuelan migrants cross the Tachira river, the natural border between Colombia and Venezuela, as the official border remained closed in Cucuta, Colombia, on Nov. 19, 2020.Photographer: Schneyder Mendoza/AFP/Getty Images

On a bus in the Colombian capital of Bogota last month, knife-wielding men threatened Venezuelan passengers. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, a battle with clubs between local vendors and Venezuelans erupted over sidewalk space. In English-speaking Trinidad, Venezuelans avoid speaking Spanish in public.

Venezuela’s descent into hunger and chaos has strained the region for several years, driving out thousands every month into nearby countries. But now, with the number of Venezuelans in exile reaching 5.4 million, the pandemic’s devastation is increasing the level of hostility toward the newcomers.