Anti-Venezuelan sentiment on the rise

9 September 2018

As the Andean countries, including Peru, seek to work out some system for regulating the influx of migrants from Venezuela, the climate of xenophobia appears to be increasing.

The precise number of Venezuelans currently in Peru is unknown, but it is thought to be in the region of 400,000. It has been calculated that this could increase to 700,000 if nothing changes between now and the end of the year.

According to the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, the countries of the region should adopt flexible policies with respect to Venezuelans seeking to enter their borders. However, government policy seems to be going in the opposite direction. In both Peru and Ecuador, governments made clear at the end of last month that all those crossing their frontiers would need to be in possession of a valid passport. A simple identity card would no longer do.

On 3 September, Peru’s human rights watchdog, the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, initiated judicial measures against the Peruvian government’s restrictive policy. 

Both the OAS and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have drawn attention to the rising climate of xenophobia in Peru and elsewhere. They have exhorted governments in the region to embark on publicity campaigns to deter discrimination and to promote multiculturalism.

There have been signs of growing restiveness in Peru with respect to Venezuelans displacing Peruvians from jobs both in the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

In the political sphere, with municipal and regional elections pending next month, there are signs of candidates seeking to run on anti-Venezuelan platforms. One such is Ricardo Belmont, the former mayor of Lima (who is seeking re-election in the capital). He is currently running second in the opinion polls. Commentators have condemned this sort of outright xenophobia.

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