Venezuelan migrants, refugees, and stranded travelers in Peru sent a letter they labeled “a cry of desperation” to President Martin Vizcarra given the “dramatic level of vulnerability” they have been facing since March 15, when the COVID-19 crisis triggered a state of national emergency in the Andean nation.
Of the 5 million Venezuelans who have left the crisis-stricken nation since 2013, almost 900,000 are currently in Peru, one of the top destinations for migrants after Colombia and Chile. And 70% of the Venezuelans there work informal jobs, increasing their vulnerability due to the quarantine.
The Venezuelans asked Vizcarra, in a letter public published on the internet on June 1, to include compatriots in the public policies implemented by his government to relieve the health emergency.
“Mr. President, we recognize the enormous effort coordinated by your entire cabinet to fight the health emergency with the citizens. However, the high level of COVID- 19 infections registered in Peru are the same threat to the thousands of Venezuelans who live in the national territory, and who do not have health insurance to deal with medical treatment. All people, nationals, and foreigners, are in the same battlefield, facing the COVID-19, an enemy that not distinguish nationalities, but in our cases, we are institutionally defenseless since the public health system denies us the possibility of being treated because we are foreigners,” its read in the letter.
They point out that children, grandparents, and entire families are suffering from hunger, and are at risk of dying from malnutrition since they do not have the financial resources to ensure food for more than a week.
“We have been 76 days without producing money,” they also say in the letter, adding that more than 70% Venezuelans in Peru work in the informal economy, and another group lost their jobs due to the restrictions imposed during the pandemic.
The eviction pandemic
Venezuelans add the eviction of rooms or houses for not having the money to pay the rent. “The first days, we debated between paying the rent or buying food; today, we no longer have the resources for either,” they said.
To date, 853 Venezuelans have been evicted, and 1,386 are under threat of imminent eviction, according to figures from the Council of Residents, a Venezuelan volunteer organization that provides them with legal assistance.
“Those threats have forced dozens of Venezuelans to try to walk back to our country amid the pandemic and not because our rights are guaranteed in Venezuela. It is the DESPERATION, the last effort of the families who left Venezuela, and now must flee from Peru, so as not to die of hunger, cold, without resources, without medical assistance or exposed, in the case of women and children, to violence,” they said.
“After this difficult moment, we will reward this effort with our daily work and commitment to make Peru a better country,” the Venezuelans said in the letter.