Mexico City, Mexico, October 6, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – A group of 200 Venezuelans returned to their homeland with the assistance of the government of Nicolás Maduro following a widely condemned xenophobic attack in Chile.
Millions of Venezuelans have left the country as a result of the economic crisis in the country but many have found xenophobia and discriminatory attitudes throughout the region.
Those anti-immigrant sentiments culminated in an attack on a group of Venezuelans that had gathered in the Chilean city of Iquique on September 24 and 25, where their possessions were burned by a right-wing mob as an act of intimidation. The migrants were first expelled by police from their improvised camp and images on social media showed demonstrators subsequently burning their clothes, mattresses, strollers, and tents.
The attacks were widely condemned by politicians of various political stripes in both Venezuela and Chile. However, facing poverty and marginalization, discrimination toward Venezuelans abroad has largely continued unabated.
Demonstrations against the presence of Venezuelans in Chile have also risen, with those protesting employing stereotypes and blaming the presence of migrants for social ills. Chilean right-wing presidential candidate José Antonio Kast has made the anti-immigration discourse a key part of his campaign.
Many Venezuelan migrants have irregular status after arriving by land and often lack any sort of support from host countries, leaving them to fend for themselves under difficult conditions.
As a result of the attacks on migrants in Chile, the Maduro government ordered the “Return to the Homeland” plan that facilitates repatriation to be activated and offer the Venezuelan citizens the chance to come back to the Caribbean nation. Launched in 2018, the program establishes air and land bridges for some migrants to return without cost.
"It is inconceivable what is happening, the persecution, xenophobia, hatred against our migrants in Chile,” said President Maduro upon mobilizing the resources to bring his compatriots home.
The 200 Venezuelans who accepted the offer to return to Venezuela were accompanied by Rander Peña, vice minister for Latin America at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the ambassador to Chile, Arévalo Méndez.
The attacks against migrants in Chile are not the first such instance of xenophobia toward Venezuelans. In 2019, a series of violent incidents targeting Venezuelans living in Peru led to a diplomatic row between Lima and Caracas, while migrants have likewise been targeted in Brazil and Colombia.
The Maduro government states that 26,733 Venezuelans have thus far opted to accept the repatriation offers, claiming that it is the largest such program in the world. However, the number of returnees pales in comparison to the number of Venezuelans who have left the country in recent years as a result of the economic crisis spurred by the oil price collapse in 2014 and, more recently, US-led sanctions aimed at destroying the state’s revenue. The United Nations’ 2020 Global Report estimates that 5.4 million Venezuelans currently live abroad.
The group of 200 migrants arrived back in Venezuela on Monday night aboard a flight operated by the state-owned Conviasa airline. Images of their arrival were widely shared by the Maduro government, which has placed great emphasis on the “Return to the Homeland” program. Nevertheless, the program has faced criticism for a lack of support for returnees to aid their resettlement inside Venezuela.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.