"Colombia has never denied us anything" | International

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At 42, Eduardo Rodríguez is about to be a grandfather. This Venezuelan construction assistant does not leave his cell phone unattended, even in the middle of his work day in a building in Galerías, a central sector of Bogotá, as he remains expectant about the news of his daughter Roselis, 22, about to give birth. in a hospital in the Colombian capital while talking last Wednesday with EL PAÍS. Unlike him, she does not have a residence permit, which means that she is still undocumented. Even so, “they have taken care of her wonderfully”, he gratefully tells about the city that welcomes them.

"With the situation in Venezuela, I was no longer enough to eat," says Eduardo without bitterness, who used to drive a gandola, as they say there, or a truck, as they say on this side of the border. However, in the almost three years that he has been in Bogotá, he has not been able to obtain a driver's license, and since then he has supported himself with various trades. He was a mechanic's assistant and watchman before dedicating himself to construction. That was one of the first sectors that the Mayor's Office reactivated in the midst of the restrictions caused by the pandemic, which in his case they have been able to cope thanks to their work and that of his wife, a manicurist who attends at home.

He came first – "if I'm going to starve, I'll starve myself," he thought – and then his wife, his two daughters and his son-in-law arrived. "My family is small, humble, hard-working, thrown forward," he says, using a popular expression next to and beside the boundary line that he repeats as a mantra. "We always go out with our heads held high to represent our country and our people, Carola, in the state of Lara, an hour and a half from Barquisimeto", proudly boasts in a brand new duplex with white walls, brand new, on the 5th floor of the Building that several Venezuelan workers erected like him and his countryman Armando Blanco, 33. "We have done well," he says.

Eduardo learned of the massive regularization that the government of Iván Duque announced last Monday through social networks, the news and the calls from friends that were multiplying. “It is an emotion for all Venezuelans who are here. I am happy for my daughters. It's going to help them get a good job, ”he predicts. Due to the paralysis of the Venezuelan authorities to issue documents, they were never able to get their passport. "We really need it … although I tell you, Colombia has never denied us anything," he says. His grandson, Samuel Alejandro, was born by cessation on Thursday at 4:45 a.m. "He's going to have his little Colombian cedulita," he says with a smile.

With a term of ten years, the temporary protection statute aims to register the 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants who are in the country, regularize them and that those who want to stay can opt for a residence visa. It includes all regulars, those who arrived before January 31, and those who enter through an immigration checkpoint during the first two years.

More than five million people have left Venezuela in search of opportunities in recent years. The pandemic has starkly portrayed the precarious conditions in which many live. In Colombia, the main host country, the new statute benefits all Venezuelans, but especially the one million who remain undocumented. Now they will have greater possibilities of accessing the offer of State services. After having crossed moors and mountains to settle in a Colombian city, almost one in five (19.5%) lives in Bogotá, the cold capital more than 500 kilometers from the border, which is home to 337,000. The accent is heard in every corner.

Driven to flee by food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation or insecurity, there are as many stories as there are migrants. Yoleibys Pérez and Juan Colmenares, originally from Valencia, in the state of Carabobo, serve a small local of Venezuelan arepas in Chapinero, a traditional Bogota neighborhood that is timidly reactivated in a capital that has just overcome the second wave of the pandemic.

“We were in need there,” says Yoleibys, 27, who three years ago started the journey shortly after graduating as a psychologist and has her residence permit in order. Juan, her 34-year-old boyfriend, followed in her footsteps, but did not have a passport and had to go through the trails, as the countless informal steps that abound along the porous border line of more than 2,200 kilometers are known. As he is a musician, he went through with the stands and the cymbals of his drums. "I didn't want to come illegally, but months passed and I came," he says after serving a couple of arepas from the Creole flag. Inspired by the typical Venezuelan dish, they have shredded meat, black beans, ripe banana and coastal cheese. He has been undocumented for two years now.

When they saw the news about the regularization in her apartment, one block from the premises, she jumped and screamed with emotion, her eyes lit up: "It is a hope for all of us." The measure clears his worst fear: that Juan would be deported for finding him on the street, even if he was not doing anything wrong. "I'm happy. I have many plans that were interrupted by the fact of being illegal ”, adds Juan. “There is something that the Venezuelans who migrated do not dare to say. The Venezuela that one lived no longer exists ”, he reasons when explaining why he does not think of returning.

"The statute is definitely a reference for the region of how important it is to reach out in humanitarian processes," says Lian De Gouveia, a 26-year-old political scientist who lives on the edge of Cedrizuela, as the neighborhood is nicknamed Cedritos because of the high number of Venezuelans. Originally from Los Teques, Miranda state, she was part of the last group of the student movement and wanted to do politics, but left her country after the protests against the government of Nicolás Maduro in 2017. She was on the streets to seek a change that never I arrive. He says that in three months he lost about eight kilos. She married her boyfriend, José David, the day before leaving. Since then he has put together shoes, done donuts, sold cell phone minutes or attended a call center, among many other trades. "For us, Colombia was an emergency destination, but our intention is to go to Europe", because they want to continue studying and their ancestors are Portuguese. Although she declares herself "eternally grateful" for the statute, she reflects that the ten-year term is "bittersweet", since it means that "the solution for Venezuela is nowhere near."


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