By Karla Betania Sánchez Arismendi
The Rumichaca bridge, located on the border between Colombia and Ecuador, is filled with Venezuelans waiting to enter Ecuador.
Recently, the line extended over 150 meters for those waiting to process their entry. Most of them carry large suitcases; some display Venezuelan flags or their country’s national colors on their clothing.
In 2017, 231,000 Venezuelans crossed the Rumichaca bridge into Ecuador. Ecuadorian authorities expect more in 2018 as crime, political conflict and shortages of basic supplies continue to plague their home country.
The Venezuelans arriving at Rumichaca are tired, most of them having endured a two-day bus trip from Cucuta, the entry point into Colombia from Venezuela. A trip from Cucuta to Guayaquil, a popular destination for many, costs an average $132, an amount that many of the travelers struggle to save. Most are forced to sell personal belongings and to take loans from family members and friends to make the journey. In a country with an inflation rate of more than 2,000 percent, coming up with money to convert into U.S. dollars is a daunting task.
When asked why they are leaving Venezuela, most tell of rampant crime and political violence. All tell of chronic shortages of food, medicine and other essentials.
One of those crossing the border last week, Asdrubal Sansoneti, says he had a 300-hectare farm in the countryside but was forced to abandoned it because of crime in his area. He plans to settle in Guayas Province, in the Simon Bolivar community, where he hopes to find work as a laborer. Most of all, he looks forward to living in a peaceful country.
Although the vast majority of Venezuelans enter Ecuador on 90-day tourist visas, everyone, including immigration officials, understands that these are not pleasure trips. Many Venezuelans will apply for longer-term visas once they settle in Ecuador, although many others will overstay their visa and look for work in the informal labor market.
Other Venezuelans are just passing through, headed for Peru and Chile, or even Argentina, according to Daniel Regalado, president of The Civil Association Venezuela in Ecuador. “Ecuador is a destination but it is also a transit point to other countries,” he says, explaining that his organization assists all Venezuelans fleeing their homeland.
Ecuador immigration authorities estimate that 42,000 Venezuelans now live in Ecuador, almost all of them arriving in the past two years. Their favorite destinations are Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, where about 3,000 have settled.
Source: El Comercio