Ecuadorian border agents said Tuesday that the flow of Venezuelan refugees entering Ecuador from Colombia has slowed dramatically from last week. One agent at the Rumichaca bridge entry point said that the number of those crossing the border was 50 percent or less the rate it had been since the beginning of the year.
According to Venezuelans at the border, the slow-down is the result of fear, not the new requirement for a criminal record document announced Monday by Ecuador. “Today, we fear for our lives because of what happened [in Ibarra] and we want things to calm down,” said one man waiting on the Colombian side of the border. “My family, which is already in Ecuador, say they are afraid and that people are giving them bad looks.”
The new requirement that Venezuelans present an apostilled document showing they do not have criminal records, announced by Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner, has not yet gone into effect. “The vice president misspoke when he said the rule was effective immediately,” said President Lenin Moreno’s press secretary. “There is a legalization process for the order that will take several days.”
Daniel Regalado, president of the Ecuador Association of Venezuelans, said that the “fear level” for Venezuelans remains high throughout Ecuador. “It is worse in smaller towns, especially near the border,” he said. “The situation is better in larger cities, such as Guayaquil, Cuenca and Quito, where people are more sophisticated and tolerant.”
Regalado corrected himself for comments he made Monday that four Venezuelans had been killed by angry mobs following the Saturday night murder in Ibarra of a pregnant Ecuadorian woman by her Venezuelan boyfriend. “I received bad information and am sorry that I repeated it. Unfortunately, there has been a great amount of rumors spread by social media and we must be careful to know the truth.” he said.
He added: “Despite this, I continue to hear of verifiable cases of my people being attacked and beat up throughout the country.”
Ecuadorian officials said Tuesday that many refugees are heading back to Venezuela, either by bus or on flights paid for by the Venezuelan government.