EVER since Nicolás Maduro became president of Venezuela, the plight of the country’s citizens has gone from bad to worse. On August 19th 1,000 Venezuelan migrants fled from the Brazilian border town of Pacaraima after locals attacked them with sticks and stones. Around 60 Brazilian soldiers are expected to arrive in the town today to ensure safe passage for Venezuelans entering the country. Elsewhere, however, the situation is deteriorating. On August 18th Ecuador unexpectedly began requiring Venezuelans crossing into their country from Colombia to present passports rather than identity cards. Peru will do the same from August 25th.
Forced migration from the country might surpass the Syrian crisis
The exodus has surged under Mr Maduro’s rule, characterised by political repression and grotesque economic mismanagement. Inflation has spiralled as high as 80,000%, making cash all but useless and food and medicine scarce. On August 20th the government will knock five zeros off its currency and anchor it to the oil price via a government-run virtual currency. In a poll conducted at the end of 2017, half of 18- to 29-year-olds and 55% of the middle class said they wanted to leave the country. Of those who hoped to flee, two-thirds gave the state of the economy as their reason.
Venezuelans are acting on this wish in ever greater numbers, yielding what may well be the largest forced displacement of people in Latin American history. The UN’s International Organisation for Migration estimates that at the end of 2017 approximately 1.6m Venezuelans were living outside their country. Today that number is likely to be far higher: as of June 2018 there were nearly 1m Venezuelan migrants in Colombia alone. The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has recorded 135,000 asylum applications from Venezuelans during the first seven months of 2018, already 20% more than for the whole of 2017. The total number of displaced Venezuelans may already have reached 4m, out of a population of some 30m. The outflow could eventually surpass the 6m people who have fled the Syrian civil war.
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