Human rights groups call on Colombia’s election candidates to address Venezuela

Venezuelan migrants in Medellin. (Image: Venezuelan Colony in Colombia)

Human rights defenders on Wednesday called on Colombia’s presidential candidates to better address how they intend to deal with the growing influx of migrants from Venezuela.

The director of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Hubert Gehring, exclaimed that what was happening in Venezuela was “transcendental” to the future of Colombia and that he was “surprised” that the topic of Venezuela had not been addressed sufficiently in the agenda of presidential candidates.

Colombia 2018 election proposals: On Venezuela

Colombia shares a massive 1,380 mile border with Venezuela where tens of thousands cross each day in search of better life outside of the socialist-run country.

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos told Bloomberg TV on Monday that “Venezuela is on the verge of imploding.”

“We have more than one million Venezuelan’s coming to Colombia,” Santos said on Bloomberg TV. “This puts tremendous pressure on our institutions.”

Santos told Bloomberg that the crisis is putting a strain on Colombia’s health and education system and to its employment market, issues that Colombia’s presidential candidates must address as hundreds of thousands more are expected to enter the country.

The University of Rosario held a forum between some of Colombia’s presidential candidates and representatives from various human rights organizations on how Colombia should deal with the worsening Venezuelan migrant crisis.

The candidates in attendance were Ivan Duque, German Vargas Lleras, and Humberto De La Calle.

Martin Santiago, a United Nations coordinator in Colombia, called on candidates to “prioritize and emphasize” the issue with Venezuela which was “one of the essential and fundamental themes of the construction of the strategic route of the State or government agenda.”

“The numbers of people migrating to Colombia today are of a magnitude that warrants a change in approach to a phenomenon that will not diminish in the future,” said Ana Duran, chief of the Mission of the International Organization for Migration.

Migration from Venezuela skyrocketed in 2017 as shortages in food and medicine in the neighboring country became rampant. The flow has since only grown bigger.

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