I sat down this morning with Gimena Sánchez, who works on Colombia and the Andes here at WOLA, and Geoff Ramsey, who works on Venezuela. Geoff spent all of April in Venezuela, and in the Venezuelan border areas of Colombia and Brazil. Gimena was in Colombia at the same time, and both did fieldwork in the border city of Cúcuta, Colombia. (Where I was in February, horrified by what I saw during a brief visit to the border bridge.)
Gimena and Geoff were looking at the exploding humanitarian crisis of Venezuelans leaving their country, mostly in order to get enough to eat. Here, they discuss what they saw, what the Brazilian, Colombian, and international response has been, and what needs to happen now.
Geoff says in Venezuela, “People are now resigned to the idea that this political and economic crisis can now last months, even years”—and sees a negotiation, similar to a negotiation to end an armed conflict, as the best way out now.
Gimena says the Colombian government / Red Cross shelter in Cúcuta is “only for people who actually have relatives in Colombia and are just going to stay there one or two days. So it was nearly empty, this beautiful shelter with all this capacity, and right outside the shelter you just saw people crowding the streets.”
Geoff: “The Brazilian authorities have responded in, relatively speaking, a more humanitarian way.”
Gimena: “In the U.S., the ideal thing to do would be to have Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans who have already come here.”