Wave of Xenophobia Against Venezuelans in Peru Sparks Diplomatic Spat

The brutal beating of a young Venezuelan girl by Peru’s police and a nationalist march have sparked outrage.

By Paul Dobson
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Xenophobic marches took place in Peru last week. (Archive)
Xenophobic marches took place in Peru last week. (Archive)

Mérida, September 30, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – A diplomatic row has erupted between Peru and Venezuela following a series of xenophobic acts targeting Venezuelans migrants.

In a foreign ministry statement published Sunday, Caracas blamed the Lima government for “promoting and allowing” xenophobia, as well as being directly responsible for some of the “shameful and inhumane” acts.

“Venezuela repudiates the acts of xenophobia, aggression and persecution against Venezuelans in Peru and denounces the irresponsibility of the Peruvian government,” Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza wrote on Twitter.

On Monday, President Maduro likewise accused his Peruvian counterpart of being “complicit” in the acts, which he likened to fascism.

The Peruvian government was quick to refute the accusations, claiming that they are “unfounded.

Last Thursday, Venezuelan Oriana Rosso (20) was attacked and brutally beaten by Peruvian police in Bambamarca City, despite clearly pleading to the officials to cease their onslaught. While the details of the case remain unclear, Rosso claims she was attacked for walking the streets alone after dark. The case has caused outrage in Venezuela, particularly amongst women's rights groups.

On Sunday, Colombian newspaper El Espectador also claimed that inflammatory pamphlets urging employers not to hire foreigners are being circulated in Peru.

“If you don’t want to have your throat cut, be tortured, kidnapped, stolen from, extorted and later buried in the dump, don’t hire Venezuelans. Don’t seek out your own death,” it reports one of the pamphlets as stating.

According to the latest United Nations figures, an estimated four million people have left Venezuela since 2015, with most migrating as Venezuela’s economic crisis deepened after 2017.

Peru is the second most popular destination for migrants after Colombia, with official figures claiming 850,000 Venezuelans are currently based in the Andean country. It has recently tightened its visa requirements to implement what it claims is an “orderly” migration policy.

Earlier this month, nationalist sentiment was also stoked after a double homicide in Lima in which the bodies were carved up and placed in different parts of the city. Five Venezuelans, one as young as 15, have been accused of the murders.

Following the latest arrest in the case, Peruvian nationalist groups organised a “March against foreign criminals” in numerous cities of the country last Friday evening.

Video footage shows a number of loudspeaker-carrying marchers in Tacna province on the Peru-Chile border shouting “Maduro, collect your garbage” and “Go home Venecos,” using the derogatory term to refer to Venezuelan-Colombian migrants.

Another video from the same wave of protests shows a man dressed in military uniform proclaiming “We will work with the national police, the air force and the marines at all the borders so that not a single miserable Venezuelan may pass.”

Caracas has also protested that Peruvian authorities deliberately blocked a flight from Venezuelan national airline Conviasa on Saturday, promising to take the case to the United Nations.

The flight was part of the government-run “Return to the Homeland” program which offers free flights for migrants looking to return to Venezuela. According to official sources, the program has brought over 14,000 citizens back to the country to date, with Saturday’s flight scheduled to bring 100 more back from Lima.

At the time, Peruvian authorities claimed a lack of fuel for the cancellation, however Venezuelan news portal La Iguana later published an unconfirmed message the CEO of airport service firm Pike Aviation, Alejandro Ruik, claiming that US sanctions were to blame, scaring off fuel providers. Pike Aviation works in over 150 Latin American airports, including Lima

Peru’s right wing government recognises self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and has played an active role in regional efforts to oust Nicolas Maduro.

Taking to Twitter over the weekend, Guaido responded to the xenophobia by “invoke[ing] the world’s solidarity” and “ordering” his Peru envoy to coordinate with local authorities to halt the attacks.

Reports also surfaced of xenophobia in neighbouring Ecuador over the weekend, when Venezuelan migrant Alban Torres had his home allegedly broken into and destroyed, presumably by Ecuadorian nationalists.

The images from Guayaquil, Ecuador, show messages of “Damned Venezuelan” and “Leave or Die” painted on the walls.

Last month, a report from Colombia’s Department of Legal Medicine concluded that one Venezuelan migrant is killed every day in Colombia, with the majority of deaths being caused by gunshots or stabbings.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.

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