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Venezuela says 'thousands' of migrants want to return

August 30, 2018

The government of President Nicolas Maduro said Venezuelan migrants were answering his call to "stop cleaning toilets abroad" and come back home. Maduro has branded the regional refugee crisis a "right-wing campaign."

Venezuelan migrants at the border of Peru
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Mejia

The Venezuelan government said on Wednesday that it had received thousands of requests from Venezuelans seeking to return home from abroad. Caracas lashed out at "xenophobic campaigns" against Venezuelans migrants in Latin America.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said that Venezuelan embassies across the world had received "thousands of requests for help" from its citizens seeking repatriation.

On Tuesday, President Maduro had sought to reach out to the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who have fled his country, asking them "to return from economic slavery."

"Stop cleaning toilets abroad and come back to live in your homeland," Maduro said. According to Minister Rodriguez, Venezuelans are now heeding this call.

Read more: Multilateral approach needed to contain Venezuela’s refugee crisis, experts warn

The UN estimates that some 1.6 million people have fled Venezuela since 2015, due to their country's recession, hyperinflation and a collapsing economy, which have left the population with critical shortages of food and medicine, as well as a crumbling infrastructure. On Wednesday, several parts of Caracas and neighboring states suffered another major power outage, the second major blackout in the month of August. 

Read more: Spain sees huge spike in Venezuelans seeking asylum

Maduro has blamed the country's crisis on what he says is an "economic war" that has been waged against his government and has branded the Venezuelan exodus a "right-wing campaign." He has recently claimed that his new economic reforms will encourage migrants to return and take part in rebuilding the country.

Infografik Karte Venezolaner fliehen vor Wirtschaftskrise EN

Tensions in South America

Rodriguez criticized Peru, Ecuador and Colombia as countries where Venezuelans have been the victims of "xenophobia and hate crimes." On Monday, the Venezuelan government chartered a plane that brought back 89 citizens from Peru, where Maduro said they had suffered "racism, contempt, economic persecution and slavery."

Peru and Ecuador have recently imposed a new hurdle for Venezuelans migrants, requiring them to show a passport for entry, just as the Venezuelan government has not been issuing them to its citizens.

But the Venezuelan government stopped short of criticizing Brazil, a country that has seen a recent bout of violence at its border, as a result of tensions between the local population and the Venezuelan refugees that have settled there.

Read more: Displaced Venezuelans fear for their lives in Brazil

Though Brazil has not announced stiffer border measures, President Michel Temer approved sending troops to the border to improve the security situation.

For now, regional leaders are still puzzling over how to solve the problem, but they are set to meet at the Organization of American States (OAS) on September 5 to discuss the crisis.

OAS chief Luis Almagro said Maduro's "dictatorial government" had created an "exasperating" situation and shown "a complete disassociation from the people's problems" as well as an "absolute inability" to provide "basic necessities."

jcg/rc (dpa, EFE, AP, AFP)

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