Venezuelans enter Peru looking for refuge from Maduro gov’t

World Today

Peru has issued thousands of temporary visas to Venezuelans who are fleeing inflation, shortages and political unrest. The country said its immigration policy is about “building bridges,” not walls.

CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports from Lima.

Marcel Mejias sells the Venezuelan fruit punch called “Tizana” on the streets of Lima, Peru. The 25-year-old does not make much money selling the drink, but he is trading comfort for safety.

“I left (Venezuela) because of the dictatorship,” Mejias said. “People are dying of hunger, from the insecurity. They’re dying from the repression against the protests.”

Mejias drapes a Venezuelan flag across his bicycle to show solidarity with friends protesting back home.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his opponents – and the United States – are waging economic war to undermine his government.

Attorney Mariella Erminy has heard that argument before. She and other Venezuelan professionals have applied for Peruvian visas in record numbers.

“I have a daughter who is pregnant, and she decided to come here to Peru to have the baby because back home there’s no milk, there are no vaccinations,” Erminy said.

Peru allows Venezuelans to study, work and receive health services for up to one year.

In previous decades, thousands of Peruvians sought new lives in Venezuela because of conflict and economic hardship at home.

“We are a country which remembers,” said Eduardo Sevilla, Peru’s immigration superintendent, explaining his country’s open-door policy toward Venezuelans.

Since February, more than 6,000 have received visas. Another 4,000 are awaiting approval.

“We are willing to help as part of a group of countries from the Americas that are concerned about an important neighbor,” Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said. “Venezuela is the number one issue in America.”