According to the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) and the IOM (International Organization for Migration), the Venezuelan refugee crisis is the largest crisis of its kind in the Americas. With 4 million displaced persons, the so-called Bolivarian diaspora is one of the world’s most serious emergencies. Colombia is home to about 1.3 million, followed by Peru with 750,000, Chile with almost 300,000, Ecuador with 250,000, Brazil with 170,000 and Argentina with 130,000. Mexico and the countries of Central America and the Caribbean also follow with significant numbers.
The Quito Pact, signed in 2019 as an accord between the Latin American countries affected by the outflow of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, launched a Regional Humanitarian Plan (RMRP) aimed at 2.2 million Venezuelans and 580 thousand people in host communities in sixteen countries.
This crisis, which had already begun during Hugo Chavez’ presidency, worsened when Juan Guaidò, President of the National Assembly from January 5, 2019 to March 28, 2019, was sworn in as Venezuela’s interim president during a demonstration. This sparked a political crisis and a dispute with Nicolás Maduro, who nevertheless remained president in office. The US’, some European countries and their allies’ recognition of Guaidó as the legitimate President caused an institutional crisis, with clashes in the streets and mounting tensions at the Colombian-Venezuelan border. This crisis not only increased the flow of migrants, but also led to low-intensity conflict at the border.
On April 26, 2021, the Ministry of Defence in Caracas reported the killing of sixteen soldiers in clashes with armed groups on the Colombian border.
Venezuelan armed forces have been engaged in clashes with Colombian armed groups in the Apure State, on the western border, since March 21. The operation has so far led to several arrests and the seizure of weapons, explosives and drugs. According to Caracas, these are dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (RAFC) rebel group.
In late May 2021, Nicolás Maduro laid out the conditions for initiating a process of political dialogue with the opposition and for resuming the long-discontinued negotiations in Oslo. “Immediate lifting of all unilateral sanctions and coercive measures, full recognition of the National Assembly and the country’s institutions, and the return of bank accounts to Petróleos de Venezuela and the Central Bank (…). We’ll see how we do on November 21 and let the people decide”, he said referring to the city and regional elections scheduled for that date.
Meanwhile, the oil industry has seen productivity plummet, worsening the economic conditions of the embargoed population. The State Oil Company itself has announced that it would need about $58 billion to adapt and repair facilities and return to pre-Hugo Chavez extraction levels.