Caracas, January 30, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro demanded an apology from Colombian Vice-President German Vargas Lleras Sunday after the latter suggested Venezuelans would be excluded from the neighboring country’s social programs.
Speaking at the unveiling of a new public housing complex in North Santander province, Vargas Lleras announced, “These houses are for the displaced population of Tibú [municipality]…this is not for venecos,” using a derogatory Colombian term for Venezuelans.
“There is not a single place in Colombia where persons not from the country are permitted to benefit from social programs,” he added.
Maduro, for his part, fired back at the Colombian leader, condemning the statements as a “xenophobic aggression against the people of Venezuela” and demanding an official retraction.
“I know the mission of this oligarchic gentleman [Vargas Lleras] is to poison the diplomatic and political relations between our countries and our peoples, and I’m clear that I can’t let that happen,” the Venezuelan head of state declared, speaking on his television program “Sundays with Maduro”.
Maduro, himself of Colombian roots, stressed the inclusivity of Venezuelan social programs, which are available to the over 5.8 million Colombians who have emigrated to Venezuela, in many cases fleeing the neighboring country’s over half century long armed conflict.
“In Venezuela, no one asks you where you are from in order to receive free healthcare, education, and housing,” he affirmed.
According to Tachira Governor Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora, the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission has provided housing to 10,140 Colombian émigré families in the border state.
Maduro also underscored Venezuela’s role in mediating the Colombian government’s peace talks with the FARC and the ELN guerrilla groups.
“I have great differences with [Colombian] President Santos but I am helping him secure peace with the FARC and the ELN… Colombia and Venezuela are twin sister [nations] now and forever,” he concluded.