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Human Rights Watch: Latin America Must Unify On Venezuelan Refugees – And Regime

Fernando Vergara
Venezuelan refugees pour into neighboring Colombia this year.

The mass exodus from Venezuela is being called one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in Latin America’s history. On Thursday a prominent human rights group came to Miami to urge Latin America to forge a more unified response to the crisis – and its cause.

Since 2015, an estimated tenth of Venezuela’s population have fled their authoritarian socialist regime and the economic disaster it’s created. Representatives from 11 Latin American countries met in Quito, Ecuador, this week to figure out how to better manage that epic flow of refugees.

They agreed to make it easier for Venezuelan migrants to enter their countries. But at a press conference in Coral Gables, leaders from the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch said they’ll have to do more as the crisis keeps growing.

“What needs to be done now is the adoption of a region-wide temporary protection that would grant all Venezuelans legal status and a work permit to stay for a specific period of time in each of these countries,” said HRW senior researcher Tamara Taraciuk.

Credit Tim Padgett / WLRN.org
Tamara Taraciuk (left) and Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch at the Americas Society & Council of the Americas in Coral Gables on Thursday.

Taraciuk presented a new report on the refugee crisis - "The Venezuelan Exodus: A Regional Response to an Unprecedented Migratory Crisis Is Urgent" - with Human Rights Watch’s Americas director, Jose Miguel Vivanco. Vivanco called the Venezuelan regime a “bloody dictatorship…that laughs at its own people” amid their struggle to feed themselves and find basics like medicine.

As a result, he said Latin America has to start pressuring Venezuela now the way other regions have.

“So far the U.S., Canada and the European Union are implementing targeted sanctions against the dictatorship in Venezuela, freezing assets and visas," Vivanco noted. "Latin American democracies should replicate those targeted sanctions.”

The Human Rights Watch presentation was hosted by the Americas Society and Council of the Americas.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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