Venezuelan Snapshots

Venezuela Snapshot – October 15, 2019

God’s Faithfulness

      In city clothes and city shoes they come.  In summer shorts, tank tops, and flip flops they come.  In tattered clothes and barefoot they come.  Carrying babies and toddlers they come.  Pushing the elderly in wheel chairs they come.  By the scores and hundreds and thousands they come.  As broken Venezuela empties its population across the continent, the poorest people walk across the Andes mountains to reach their varied and unknown destinations.   

     The mountains are barren, cold, windy.  The road is long, hard, dangerous. Food often consists only of bread given by strangers.  Nights are bitter.  Days of walking extend into weeks of walking.  The body becomes exhausted, emotions become numb.  Step, step, step.  One more step.  One more.

     Earlier this month, I accompanied a mission team from First Baptist Atlanta up the mountain to the 11,000-foot pass, where they saw one of the few overnight shelters along the route taken by the Venezuelan “trekkers”.  From that point, another 60 miles of walking will get the Venezuelans to the next city.  The FBC Atlanta team presented the Gospel to those at the shelter, but due to governmental regulations could not give out the used clothes and shoes they brought.

     The team was disappointed to take their donations back with them when the needs were so obvious and visible.  I suggested that on the return trip we pull over by Venezuelan trekkers to find out their needs.  As we set out it had been raining, but once we headed down the mountain the clouds opened up, and the sun began to shine.  One member of the group commented, “Now we’ll see a rainbow.”  Sure enough, around a few curves we saw a glorious rainbow coming up from the mountain below.  Just a few curves later we spotted a group of three Venezuelan young men sitting by the side of the road, so we pulled over.  

     I asked them, “What do you need?  One responded, “I need shoes.  The ones I have are tearing my feet apart because they are completely shot.”   Another young man also needed shoes.  With us we had two pairs of adult men’s shoes, and only two pairs of adult men’s shoes.  We should not have been surprised:  One pair was exactly the right size for one young man, the other pair exactly the right size for the second man.  

     We cared for their feet, with cleansers and cream, and several pairs of socks. The team also gave them warmer clothing, and food, and shared the Gospel.   One of the Venezuelan men looked stunned the entire time we were with them.  His look said, “Where did these people suddenly appear from with everything to meet our needs?”  

     As we were getting ready to leave, I told the young men that during their journey on foot they have a great opportunity to start a conversation with God.  One of the two who had received shoes responded, “When we were walking past the rainbow, I told God, “I need shoes; my feet are completely torn up.” No more than ten minutes after that cry we arrived with a good pair of shoes that fit him perfectly.   These Venezuelan refugees now have no doubt that God knows where they are and that they are not alone.  

 Holland will begin issuing temporary visas to Venezuelans entering Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, a process requiring about six months.  As soon as the Venezuelan situation improves, this visa policy ends.

The southern South American representative for the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) states that 5,000 Venezuelans per day leave their country. At that rate, five million Venezuelans will have emigrated by the end of this year, and seven million by the end of 2020.  (See venezolanos abandonan su país por día.).   

In her as Assistant High Commissioner for Protection . . .Gillian Triggs called the Global Compact on Refugees a “game changer” for international responsibility-sharing for refugees.  “It provides a blueprint, ensuring that host communities get the timely support . . . . and that refugees are able to lead productive lives with fair access to healthcare, education and job opportunities,” she said.  

As of August, babies born to Venezuelan parents on Colombian soil are eligible for Colombian nationality. The measure includes 27,000 Venezuelan children born in Colombia since January 2015. Meantime, many children are effectively stateless and struggling to access education and healthcare.   

For over a decade, Venezuela has served as a friendly safe space for Colombia’s various leftist rebel guerrillas, who used Venezuela as a rear-guard, for R & R, for medical treatment or for training. Gradually, they expanded their operations, using Venezuela as a conduit for drugs and running extortion rackets there.  

For some time, security analysts in Bogota have been alarmed by Caracas’s embrace of ELN — the National Liberation Army that for decades played second fiddle to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. But the recent announcement by top FARC leaders that they are returning to war made a tense situation much worse, creating the prospect of multiple forces within Colombia acting as Venezuelan proxies.

Venezuelan intelligence documents leaked to Colombian newsweekly Semana recently paint the most troubling picture yet, portraying Venezuela’s relationship to Colombian “red groups” as something close to Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah. Colombia’s rebels are actively trained and armed in Venezuela, including in the use of enormously dangerous weapons such as high-tech Russian shoulder-mounted antiaircraft missiles.  

In September the United States, Colombia, and nine other countries invoked the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), which commits the countries of the Western Hemisphere to respond to military aggression against any one of them. The move came after Nicolás Maduro said he would deploy 150,000 troops to the border with Colombia. Invoking TIAR is an extreme measure in the region and an unmistakable sign that armed conflict is now a real possibility.   

The Wall Street Journal followed a young Venezuelan couple as they prepared to leave their country after seeing the value of their wages dwindle, losing family members to gang violence, and watching others leave. They secured work visas for Chile, but leaving means saying goodbye to relatives too old to make the journey.  

Brazil says thick crude oil washing up on nine northeastern beaches for the past month is “very likely from Venezuela” and is “enormously difficult to contain.”    

The Trump administration is preparing new sanctions on Cuba over its support for Maduro and taking a “close look” at Russia’s role in helping him remain in power.  

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is calling to block Venezuela from a spot on the Human Rights Council.  

Amid anti-government demonstrations, and chaos, Ecuador’s president blames Venezuela and political rivals.    

The Maduro regime blocked the president-elect of Guatemala from entering the country.  

Venezuela will lose ownership of Citgo, with shares of the Texas-based refinery going to Russian state-run oil company and other financial backers of the maduro regime, unless the U.S. Treasury intervenes.  

India’s largest private oil refiner has resumed crude imports from Venezuela in a barter deal.  

In the sixteenth Russia-Venezuela High Level Intergovernmental Commission (CIAM) in Caracas last week, the clear message is that Moscow will continue to offer support to the Maduro regime.