ColombiaOne.comPoliticsNicolas Maduro Calls Venezuelan Emigrants to Return Home

Nicolas Maduro Calls Venezuelan Emigrants to Return Home


Nicolas Maduro encourages Venezuelan migrants return to Venezuela
President Nicolas Maduro is actively encouraging Venezuelan emigrants to return to Venezuela as the country is suffering from this exodus. Credit : Nicolas Maduro / X

Venezuela’s recent agreement with Mexico, promoting the return of Venezuelan emigrants to their homeland, is part of President Nicolas Maduro ‘Vuelta a la Patria’ (Return to the Homeland) program, a governmental initiative actively promoting the return of Venezuelan migrants to Venezuela. In a February 2024 public address broadcast on state channel Venezolana de Television, Nicolas Maduro stated “migrants must return; the homeland is waiting for them, the homeland needs them.”

Over the past decade, Venezuela has experienced a significant exodus of its population, primarily driven by the economic crisis, hyperinflation, and political turmoil that have devasted the once-prosperous nation.

Migrants are Venezuela’s biggest loss

According to the R4V Platform, an agency jointly managed by the International Organization for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 7.72 million Venezuelan migrants worldwide. These figures are extraordinary, surpassing those from war-torn countries. As a comparison, the number of Ukrainian refugees who have fled the Russian invasion stands at 6.5 million globally, according to UNHCR, while Syrians who have fled the civil war number approximately 5.5 million.

The first consequence has been a significant reduction in Venezuela’s population. Obtaining official data on this matter is particularly challenging, as the last census was conducted in 2011, and the government is very secretive about such sensitive issues. Research by the ANOVA, a Caracas-based consultancy group, estimated the population to be around 28.1 million in 2020, a stark contrast to the 32.6 million projected by Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics for the same year.

Thus, a direct consequence for Venezuela is a further weakening of its current and future economic situation, as many graduates and skilled personnel have left Venezuela. For instance, in the hydrocarbon sector, the departure of a specialized workforce has led to a reduction in Venezuela’s capabilities, even though this sector is a key part of the Venezuelan economy.    

Venezuelan migrants in Colombia

Over 80 percent of Venezuelan migrants have fled to Latin America, with Colombia being the primary destination, hosting over 2.8 million Venezuelans, including 2.3 with legal resident status. This choice is influenced by Colombia’s geographical proximity and the cultural and human ties between the two countries. Similarly, before Venezuela’s economic crisis the country was the primary destination for Colombian migrants, and still hosts the largest Colombian diaspora globally.

Colombia’s political decisions have also played a key role. Indeed, since the onset of the Venezuelan crisis, the Colombian authorities have been welcoming Venezuelan migrants. In February 2021 a special migratory regime, the Temporary Protection Status, was introduced, granting a ten-year visa which allows Venezuelan migrants access to employment, education and other public services.

Since the crisis began, Nicolas Maduro has attributed the US economic sanctions, particularly those targeting the oil sector, as the primary cause of the Venezuelan exodus. As such, he stated that if the US were to lift these sanctions, all Venezuelan migrants would return ‘within a year’. Initiated in 2018, the ‘Vuelta a la Patria’ program has so far facilitated the repatriation of over 340,000 Venezuelan citizens.

However, the prospects for the program’s success are limited. In a survey conducted by Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics, 82 percent of the interviewed Venezuelan emigrants expressed a desire to stay in Colombia, while only 3.1 percent declared an intention to return to Venezuela.

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