Back at the turn of the century, Venezuela was the richest country in South America. But much has changed since then. Today, thanks in large part to mismanagement by the government of President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela is in an economic and political crisis.
“A country rich in resources, that country has been reduced to stock outs, hyperinflation, malnutrition, and a scarcity in the most basic of medicines. A country that should be a donor nation, a country that should be lifting others out of poverty, has become a driver of despair,” said USAID Administrator Mark Green at a Council of the Americas event in early August.
So, Venezuelans are leaving the country in droves. Indeed, we are now seeing one of the largest cross-border mass exodus in the history of the Americas. It is a shameful black mark on Venezuela’s record, doubly so because this disaster is almost entirely man-made.
Many Venezuelans are fleeing to Brazil and Ecuador, some have even begun to show up in the Caribbean. But the vast majority are crossing to Colombia. Every day, around 5,000 people cross the Simon Bolivar International Bridge and head for the closest large city: Cúcuta [coo-coo-tah], just a few kilometers to the north. Some keep moving, but many remain in Cúcuta. Currently, about one million Venezuelans are sheltering in Colombia.
“To be clear, this is not merely Colombia's problem,” said Administrator Green. “This massive displacement creates challenges with everyone involved.”
USAID has mobilized more than 46 million dollars in funding to support Venezuelans who have fled Venezuela and the Colombian communities hosting them, said Administrator Green. This includes more than 9 million dollars recently announced by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. The money will go toward health care, emergency food assistance, safe drinking water, hygiene supplies, shelter, and protection from violence and exploitation.
“The world owes Colombia a debt of gratitude for its willingness to accommodate the Venezuelans who have fled to there,” said Administrator Green. “And we're supporting their efforts.”