December 5, 2019
Colombian Leaders Come to D.C. to Discuss Local Impact of Venezuelan Migration
Meet with Members of Congress and Administration to Share Stories and Ask for Greater U.S. Support
Washington, D.C. — The Embassy of Colombia partnered with the International Republican Institute (IRI) this week to bring local Colombian leaders to Washington, D.C. to discuss the on-the-ground challenges posed by the Venezuelan migration. Colombia has welcomed with open arms more than 1.4 million of the roughly 4.5 million displaced Venezuelans in Latin America.
In bipartisan meetings with members of Congress and the administration, the local leaders — ranging from mayors to the Secretary of Social Inclusion — described the challenges local communities are facing as they provide humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans fleeing the Maduro dictatorship. They also met with the Organization of American States.
“We have a big challenge, and we are here to attend a huge humanitarian crisis,” said Colombian Ambassador to the United States Francisco Santos, who participated in the meetings. “I want to thank our local leaders for helping others to survive. The crisis in the region is a matter of survival.”
The local leaders who shared their stories included:
Misael A. Velasquez, Mayor of Fonseca (La Guajira)
Gladys San Miguel, Secretary of Social Inclusion, Bogotá, who said: “Imagine a city the size of New Orleans moving into your city in the span of three years.”
Pepe R. Paredes, Mayor of Villa del Rosario (Norte de Santander), who said: “We are asking for more help from the international community to help our brothers and sisters from Venezuela. Even if Maduro left the office now, it would take at least 10 years for them to have a healthy country again.”
Miriam M. Martinez, First Lady of Ipiales (Nariño), who said: “They walk more than 4000 kms before arriving to Ipiales. They arrive absolutely exhausted and even sick, looking for an opportunity to have a better life.”
Felipe Muñoz, Presidential Advisor for the Colombia-Venezuela border
The four-year crisis in Venezuela shows no sign of slowing. Those who have fled the Maduro regime have settled in border areas and cities across Colombia, including Bogotá, Barranquilla, Fonseca (Guajira) and Villa del Rosario. With 90 percent of Venezuelans in poverty, many of these migrants have significant humanitarian needs and finding employment is a challenge.
“Colombia will continue welcoming our Venezuelan neighbors and doing all we can to help them, but we need greater international support,” said Ambassador Santos. “We appreciated the opportunity to meet with U.S. officials and explain how even greater U.S. support would make a huge difference on the ground in Colombia.”
Local Colombian leaders meet with USAID.
Local Colombian leaders and Ambassador Santos meet with Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL).