For decades, Colombians migrated to oil-rich Venezuela in search of a better life. But this sisterhood came to a sudden end this summer when Venezuela closed its border and began forced deportations.
CCTV America’s Michelle Begue reports.
Political tension rises between Venezuela and ColombiaFor decades, Colombians migrated to oil-rich Venezuela in search of a better life. But this sisterhood came to a sudden end this summer when Venezuela closed its border and began forced deportations.CCTV America's Michelle Begue reports.
Yadery Blanco left Colombia in 2008 to escape the violence in her town tied to the country’s decade’s old armed conflict. Like many Colombians before her, she fled to neighboring Venezuela where she was given a home.
“I have had a hard life. I had to live in a refugee center four months in Venezuela… They gave me land and I began to work hard to build myself up. I sold coffee. Everything I am going through today I already went through in Caracas,” Yadery Blanco said
In August of this year, Yadery re-lived displacement all over again. This time, forcibly rounded up, put on a truck by Venezuelan authorities and driven back to her native Colombia separated from her 12 year old son who was left behind. She lived in one of the 23 temporary shelters put up in the Colombian border city of Cucuta.
“In one day Venezuela said, ‘all Colombians out’ and I was kicked out in a moment’s notice. When all I have done in life is work hard, I haven’t done anyone any wrong. I don’t know anything about contraband. I just live off of my work.”
Tensions between the two countries spiked in August after unknown gunmen shot and wounded three Venezuelan Border Police. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded by closing down this border and deporting 1,000 Colombians. The drastic measure, he said, was necessary to put an end to smuggling and crime in the region.
After the deportations, the United Nations reported another 18,000 Colombians fled Venezuela in fear that they would be mistreated. This refugee and border crisis has yet to be resolved.
The closing of the border also ended what was a free flow of migration between the two countries. The Mayor of Cucuta, Donamaris Ramirez, said that for years Colombians and Venezuelans worked and lived on both sides of the border.
President Maduro blames Colombian migrants for bringing poverty to Venezuela. Five-and-a-half million Colombians in all, he says seeking work, education and health care. Numbers compiled by the Organization of American States show 70 percent of all Venezuela’s migrants do come from Colombia.
Like many migrants, Yadery tells us she moved in search of better opportunities. For thousands of Colombians in 2015, migration took them to a place they least expected, their home country.