Colombia Changes Policy


The Colombian government will no longer just accept the Border Crossing Card for arriving Venezuelans, downloadable online. It seems that Venezuelans have only needed to show that card and their their regular national ID, know in Venezuela, Colombia and Panama as a “cedula” and used for banking, hotels, whatever. (I have a Panamanian cedula).

UpĀ  until now, Venezuelans have had a relatively easy time entering Colombia by road.


Photo from Caracol (Col): Venezuelans in Colombia

From this point onward, Venezuelans will have to show a passport at the border. Obtaining a passport is a much longer, more bureaucratic and more expensive procedure. Actually, in Venezuela it is becoming very difficult to obtain a passport, if rumors are to be believed, and the underground market for false passports is 500 – 1,000 each (I am doubtful that these would actually work).

To its credit, the Colombian government is not “cracking down” in some panicked round-up of people. It’s priority is to regularize the people here, stem the flow of new people, and simply obtain more control over the situation. President Santos, to his credit, just had an emergency meeting about this yesterday in Cucuta, a border city, and announced the new measures all of which seem reasonable. The UN was also invited and is setting up some kind of monitoring office.


Photo from Panorama (Venez)

As I stated before, I end up in conversations with Venezuelans here in Colombia on a daily basis. In fact, I’d say most of the people I buy fruit from, or coconut water, or coffee in the streets, are Venezuelan. I meet Venezuelans when I’m waiting in line at the supermarket. There were two teenage boys behind me buying huge bags of rice to take back to Venezuela, which is about six hours away by bus. All told, here in Colombia I’ve had more interactions with Venezuelans than with Colombians.

Today, some lady at a fruit stand (Venezuelan) said there were 250 Venezuelan pregnant women near the border taken to a new clinic of some sort. Not sure if that is true. I read Spanish-language news from Colombia and Venezuela and did not see that story. Colombia does not have “jus soli” laws, so just giving birth here does not mean the child will be Colombian. However, if the foreigner has obtained some kind of legal residency status, or if the father (on the birth certificate anyway) is Colombian, then the child can be Colombian.

Some Venezuelans here want more Colombian control over the situation to keep out the bad elements and prevent the law-abiding migrants from being tarnished by the delinquency of a few.

Sometimes I remark to these folks that I was in Venezuela in 2006, which they all remember as the golden years. The revolution was flush with cash, and as witnessed by the UN, the poorest fifth of the population rose above extreme poverty levels. That was a decade ago. Now life is more of a Hobbesian struggle. Many of the arriving Venezuelans are – or were (past tense) – part of the revolution’s “base.”

Unless the Venezuelan government finds a way to reverse the downward spiral – with inflation predicted to reach 13,000% this year – then the country could devolved into “garrison socialism” where the armed forces become the only real pillar of support.

Cuba, actually, never reached that point, because the party and bureaucracy forged strong bonds with its society (and where support for the regime still remains much stronger than most Americans would know). Cuba has a loud and vocal minority (mostly in Florida, but some in Cuba) but its government is by no means on the ropes. It still has majority support.

Venezuela’s government is in a much more vulnerable position. It’s going to have to “think outside the box” to come up with a solution.

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