Things That Matter

As Venezuelan Migrants Flee To Nearby Colombia, A Tech Startup With Japanese Investment Has Become Their Lifeline

More than 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled their country in the past few years amid a collapsing economy and political turmoil. Many have migrated to nearby Colombia where more than 1.2 million Venezuelans are now living and those numbers could balloon to 2 million by this year’s end. This has created new challenges as well as growth, particularly when it comes to Rappi, the country’s tech-driven delivery service.

The delivery service, Rappi, has seen rapid growth in the last year, mainly propelled by Venezuelan migrants looking to get by.

The app, which was founded in Colombia in 2015, has a simple purpose to that of American delivery services like Postmates, deliver goods to people from wherever they want. An injection of $1 billion from Japan’s SoftBank helped establish the South American tech startup as a viable business.

Rappi is now operating in seven countries, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay and more than 40 major cities in Latin America. It also has more than 100,000 people that deliver for the service and has become one of Columbia’s fastest growing startups.

The company can credit the rising number of Venezuelan migrants that have begun delivering for the service as a way to make ends meet. Many of them have been shut out of the traditional job market and can make about $23 dollars a day, roughly three times Colombia’s minimum wage.

Amid a failing economy and political turmoil, Venezuelans have the delivery service as a lifeline.

While Venezuela faces hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages, many are left with little to no choice but to leave their country. As these large number of migrants have relocated to Columbia, the first thing they do is seek jobs.

Migrants receive a temporary work permit, known as the PEP (Politically Exposed Persons). But that permit has come with a label. Wilander Jiménez, a 28-year-old from the city of Lara in Venezuela, has struggled to find work even with this permit. He arrived in Colombia almost a year ago and Rappi has become a primary source of income for him.

“People won’t hire you here if you’re Venezuelan, even if you have the PEP,” Jiménez told the Miami Herald. “So Rappi has become a solution for many of us.”

The company has acknowledged what their service has meant to many Venezuelans looking for opportunities.

Credit: rappicolombia / Instagram

Sebastián Mejía, Simon Borrero and Felipe Villamarin are all co-founders of Rappi. They’ve noticed the rise in Venezuelans that have taken up their delivery service as a safety net for cash and to get by during hard times.

“From day zero at Rappi we’ve always had a social mission,” Mejía told the Miami Herald. “So we are very excited that Rappi has not only become a source of income for vulnerable communities — like Venezuelan migrants, who are the face of a dramatic humanitarian crisis — but has also given them the ability to send money home.”

The company says it doesn’t know exactly how many Venezuelans work for Rappi because of its rapid growth. In 2018, the service had 20,000 deliverymen, according to media reports, that number has grown to four times as many.

While Rappi has created a stop-gap for some Venezuelans, many realize it’s filling a temporary need during their hard times.

Credit: rappicolombia / Instagram

Beyond just Columbia, many Venezuelans have relocated to other places in Latin America like Peru, Argentina, and Chile.

As hard times continue to hit Venezuela the number of people searching for new opportunities elsewhere is likely to continue. This includes Jiménez, who was a former policeman back in Venezuela. He acknowledges he’ll never get rich delivering for Rappi but it helps him get by for now.

“All of us want to go home some day when things improve there,” Jiménez said. “But this is one of the few opportunities we have now to survive…Rappi is growing because of us Venezuelans.”

READ: The Crisis In Venezuela Is Worsening. Here’s What You Should Know Right Now

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Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Things That Matter

Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Julio César Aguilar / Getty Images

As the number of parents and children crossing the border continues to increase, driven by violence and poverty in Central America, many are growing desperate while being forced to wait in migrant camps in Mexico. While crossings have not reached the levels seen in previous years, facilities that hold migrants are approaching capacity, which has been reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is forcing many to check the status of their claims by crossing into the U.S. to speak to border agents. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more women are being forced to give birth in less than ideal situations – putting at risk both the lives of the mother and child.

A migrant woman gave birth on a bridge between U.S.-Mexico border.

According to Mexican border authorities, a Honduran woman gave birth on the Mexican side of the border bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. The woman was apparently trying to reach the U.S. side, but felt unsteady when she got there and was helped by pedestrians on the Mexican side waiting to cross.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said the birth occurred Saturday afternoon on the Ignacio Zaragoza border bridge, also known as “Los Tomates.” It said authorities received an alert from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials regarding “a woman trying to enter the country improperly.”

It said the woman was taken to a hospital in Matamoros, where she was given free care. Her child will have the right to Mexican citizenship.

Hernández is hardly the first woman to give birth while hoping to cross into the U.S.

Just last month, a woman gave birth along the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. She had just crossed the river and her smugglers were yelling at her to keep moving as U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived. But she couldn’t continue, fell to the ground, and began to give birth.

The mother and her her daughter are safe and in good health. “They treated me well, thank God,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name used because she fears retribution if she’s forced to leave the country, in an interview with ABC News.

“There’s so many women in great danger,” Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told ABC News. “They must really think before they do what they do and risk the life of their unborn child.”

Like so many other women, Hernández was waiting in Mexico under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Hernández was reportedly among about 800 migrants sheltering in an improvised riverside camp while awaiting U.S. hearings on their claims for asylum or visas. Other migrants are waiting in Matamoros, but have rented rooms.

Thousands of other migrants are waiting in other Mexican border cities for a chance to enter the U.S. — some for years. The Trump administration has turned away tens of thousands at legal border crossings, first citing a shortage of space and then telling people to wait for court dates under its “Remain in Mexico” policy.

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‘Insecure’ Star Kendrick Sampson Shared Emotional Instagram Post About Experiencing Police Brutality in Colombia

Things That Matter

‘Insecure’ Star Kendrick Sampson Shared Emotional Instagram Post About Experiencing Police Brutality in Colombia

Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Anti-Black police brutality isn’t just a problem in the U.S.–it’s a problem around the world. A recent Instagram post made by “Insecure” actor Kendrick Sampson proved as much.

Sampson–who has been very involved in Black Lives Matter protests this year–shared a post with his 930,000 Instagram followers detailing the police brutality that he faced in Cartagena, Colombia.

The video shows a Cartagena police officer appearing to tug on Sampson’s hands before striking him in the face. The officer then takes out his gun and cocks it in a threatening manner. The entire scene is upsetting, to say the least.

The video was originally posted by Sampson’s friend, Colombian actress Natalia Reyes, who wrote a fiery Instagram caption condemning the Cartagena police:

POLICE BRUTALITY, this is my friend Kendrick Sampson @kendrick38, an actor and dedicated activist of the @blklivesmatter movement in the United States, today this happened to him here in Cartagena and everything hurts, not only because he is a friend but because that is the day to day of many, because we got used to this and that is NOT okay, it’s not normal, the police have the right to ask for your ID but they don’t have the right to punch you, dig in your underwear (as happened before someone started filming) and pull a gun on a person who is not committing any crime or offering any resistance, taking him to a station, not wanting to return his ID and even trying to admonish him? What if this person wasn’t filming? When is this gonna stop? It’s time to rethink the use of force.

@nataliareyesg/Instagram

Sampson reposted the video on his own Instagram account with his own commentary on the discrimination he faced in Cartagena:

Cartagena is AMAZING but this is the 6th time I was stopped in 5 days. It happens to Black Colombians often. I’m told stopping is policy but what is NOT is they reached down my underwear aggressively, slap my arms 5 times hard, punch me in my jaw and pull his gun on me. He then cuffed me and dragged me through the streets. I did not resist any legal procedure. Thank u for posting @nataliareyesg & for helping me through this. And to the person who recorded this.

@kendrick38/Instagram

Some of Sampson’s Latino followers as well as others who have simply visited Colombia chimed in with their thoughts.

One follower said, “I’m so sorry this happened to you here. Cartagena also suffers from racism and such obvious police abuse, I don’t know how long we’re going to have to put up with all this. This is disgraceful.”

Another Colombian said: “Colombian people are pure love bro … sorry for that bad moment. Police in this city think that his uniform it’s power or something like that, many police agents think that are better than you only for wear that uniform and that’s so sick my man…”

This Afro-Latino traveled to Colombia and had a similar experience: “I wasn’t hit this way at all, but when I was visiting Cartagena earlier this year in November, they stopped me and my other black friends and questioned us. No one else in my group (a mix of mestiza, fair-skinned Indigenous, and yt ppl) to ask us why we were standing outside of our hotel.”

Latino celebrities like Rosario Dawson and Lauren Jauregui responded to Sampson’s post offering their sympathy and support.

“I’m so grateful you were able to walk away from this altercation alive and horrified that that’s something to have to be grateful for,” wrote Rosario Dawson. “Police brutality is rampant worldwide and the violence must end. No more impunity.”

Lauren Jauregui simply wrote: “Holy f–k bro. Sending you so much protection!!!”

Colombia has the second largest Black population in South America, right behind Brazil.

Black Colombians make up 10.5% of Colombia’s population. The global swell of activism after the death of George Floyd stretched to Colombia over the summer, with Afro-Colombians taking to the streets to protest anti-Black racism and police brutality.

There’s a longstanding myth that Latinidad is “color blind” because of its shared history of European colonization and the blending of multiple cultures. But cases like Sampson’s prove that is not the case. Police brutality and anti-Blackness is just as real and pervasive in Latin America as it is in the United States.

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