Things That Matter

Colombians Are Starting To Turn On Venezuelan Refugees In Their Country And Here’s Why

Colombia and Venezuela have long had a close relationship in terms of culture, financial cooperation and migratory patterns. The recent years of economic struggle in Venezuela, product of the Chavista policies instituted by both the late Hugo Chavez and incumbent president Nicolas Maduro, added to US economic sanctions, have triggered a mass migration towards Colombia and other neighboring countries. Added to escalating prices for even the most basic commodities, shortage in basic services such as water, gas and electricity, and what international bodies have deemed as State repression, Venezuelans, particularly in the capital city of Caracas, have had to survive on criminal activity that does not only target the rich, but also those most vulnerable. 

It is estimated that as many as a million Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years. This is a massive number if we consider that the overall population of the country is roughly 31 million. While some of the richest Venezuelans have migrated to cities such as Miami and Tampa in the United States, or countries like Australia and Canada, economic migrants and refugees have looked at the neighboring Colombia as a new home. While most Colombians have been accommodating, understanding that forced exile is born out of need and not wickedness, there is an increasing number who is feeling frustrated with the current situation and are blaming Venezuelan migrants for it. Remember, when things go wrong human beings tend to blame those who are different. 

The protests in Colombia highlighted the social and economic problems being faced by the country.

Credit: Al Jazeera Latin America

The recent wave of protests in Colombia, particularly in the capital city of Bogota, have put the spotlight on the socioeconomic differences that have made society increasingly polarized. The crackdown on unions, students and activists has also brought attention to the increasingly repressive methods of the Ivan Duque presidency.

Added to this, violence against vulnerable groups is increasing, as reported by Al Jazeera: “Tension has been simmering for months amid discontent over inequality, education and Duque’s slow implementation of a 2016 peace deal, which was signed between the previous government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and brought an end to 50 years of fighting. More than 750 indigenous leaders and human rights activists have been killed in Colombia over the past two years, according to local think-tank INDEPAZ.”

The current climate is ripe for a conflict that could last for years if all the involved parties fail to reach even the most basic of agreements. Frustration is running high. And we know that frustration is usually a trigger for discrimination.

So some people are blaming the increased influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees.

In a recent article published by Reuters, a side effect of the conflicted political climate in Colombia was brought to attention: the growing discrimination against Venezuelan migrants.

In the article, a young Venezuelan called Daniels Herrera told journalist Steven Grattan how he and other migrants have heard people blame Venezuelans for the Colombia’s troubles, claiming that it is Venezuelans who run the country. This has made Herrera and others like him feel unsafe even if coming from Caracas, by all accounts one of the most dangerous cities in the world. They have decided to remain silent, speak as little as possible so their accent won’t give them away.

This basically leads to situations such as the one that African and Middle Eastern refugees are living in Europe, where xenophobia is high and a cruel reminder of the division that led unspeakable atrocities during the Second World War.  

Discrimination is a quick slippery slope.

The Reuters article explains that the looting and vandalism that has been triggered by the protests is now being blamed on Venezuelan migrants, which of course has gotten the most conservative members of Colombian society all riled up. They have been quick to point fingers, as Reuters argues: “Non-governmental organizations and researchers say rumors blaming Venezuelan migrants for isolated looting and vandalism connected to the protests have caused a sharp rise in xenophobia over the last 10 days. Posts on social media and messages forwarded on messaging application WhatsApp – many mentioning Venezuelans – stoked panic among Bogota residents on the night of the curfew, as the city’s emergency line was inundated with calls reporting residential break-ins that police say never happened.”

Discrimination and panic are fires that are hard to put out once they start burning. Now Venezuelans are fearful that they will become the scapegoats for whatever goes wrong in Colombia. Discrimination starts on the street level, as part of everyday talk, but can very rapidly become instituted in policies that result in unfair judicial processes and policing that singles out individuals due to their accent or physical appearance. Does this sound familiar to those Latinos living in the United States, where Brown and Black folk are often targeted by the authorities? 

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Democratic Senators Introduce Legislation to Grant Venezuelan Migrants Temporary Protected Status, Prevent Deportation

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Democratic Senators Introduce Legislation to Grant Venezuelan Migrants Temporary Protected Status, Prevent Deportation

Photo via Getty Images

After years of living in a state of uncertainty about their future, Venezuelan refugees in the U.S. might finally be granted long-term protection by the U.S. government.

On Monday, Democratic senators took the official steps towards granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelan migrants in the U.S.

A similar resolution passed in the House in 2019, but was blocked by Republicans in the senate.

This time if passed, TPS could protect 200,000 Venezuelan citizens currently in the U.S, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Although former President Trump issued a Deferred Enforced Departure decree (DED) on his final day in office, critics and immigration experts alike argue that this action didn’t go far enough.

“After four years of empty promises and deceit, nobody believes Donald Trump had an epiphany on his last day in office and decided to protect the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans he was forcing into the shadows,” said New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez in a statement.

Indeed, Trump DED order only delayed deportation of undocumented Venezuelans for up to 18 months. But TPS would grant Venezuelan refugees protected status.

“TPS is an immigration status that can lead to a green card under President Joe Biden’s immigration proposal,” Miami-based immigration lawyer Laura Jimenez told NBC News.

“TPS is based in statute and is a legal immigration status, as opposed to Deferred Enforced Departure,” Menendez, who was born in New York City to Cuban immigrants, said. “That is why we are relaunching our campaign to actually stand with those fleeing the misery caused by the Maduro regime.”

Throughout his campaign, President Biden promised he would extend Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan refugees, so now the refugee community wants to see him act on that promise.

Venezuela’s economy collapsed under the repressive regime of Nicolás Maduro, shrinking by approximately 64%.

Not only are there widespread food shortages and massive inflation, but Maduro’s critics are being jailed and silenced by other nefarious means.

Because of all this, the South American country facing what Bloomberg calls “a refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions.” As of now, some 5.4 million Venezuelans are in exile, with 600 more leaving the country every day.

But with the news of a likely extension of Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans in the U.S., many Venezuelans are starting to feel optimistic about the future.

“Now, I feel like I’m really a part of this society and we keep supporting this country,” said Tampa resident Jennifer Infante to Bay News 9 about the recent Congressional news. “I think we deserve this opportunity because we came to make this country a better place and to keep moving forward.”

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

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‘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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