Change of government in Colombia brings hope for Venezuelan migrants

petro Colombia hope Venezuelan migrants
Venezuelan migrants crossing into Colombia at La Parada border. Photo: Bgrocker/Shutterstock

A new report by NGO Crisis Group states that, out of the 6 million Venezuelan migrants who escaped the country’s political and economic crisis, 2.5 million have settled in neighboring Colombia, where President Gustavo Petro recently took office promising to re-establish relations between the two countries.

Venezuelan migrants to Colombia have “little choice but to rely on informal work and are vulnerable to recruitment into armed groups or street gangs,” the report says, adding that this has also led to rising xenophobia among the Colombian population.

Venezuelans are also vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and “often accept wages considerably lower than what locals receive,” all factors that could destabilize a country that is struggling with its own peace process after decades of internal warfare between guerrillas and the state.

After years of tense relations between Colombia’s right-wing governments and the authoritarian left-wing rulers of Venezuela, Mr. Petro campaigned on a platform of patching up severed ties between the estranged neighbors.

A recent bounceback in Venezuela’s economy is also reason for moderate optimism in what is  a complex situation, with millions living in precarious conditions with no formal jobs or long-standing ties to their communities.