- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2019

The Organization of American States is urging countries to classify Venezuelans fleeing their country’s economic and humanitarian crisis as refugees, guaranteeing them permanent protection.

At a panel hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Latin American Program, David Smolansky, coordinator for the Venezuelan Migration and Refugee at OAS, said if the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela continues, there will soon be more refugees from Venezuela than have fled the long civil war in Syria.

By the end of 2019, OAS predicts the number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees could reach up to 5.7 million. By the end of 2020, that number could be as high as 8.2 million.

The Trump administration and a number of regional and European countries are pressing socialist President Nicolas Maduro to step down, saying they recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president. But the country’s economic crisis has only deepened as the political stalemate in Caracas drags on.

Mr. Smolansky said at the panel that there are five motivations for those who are leaving the country: lack of food and medicine: generalized violence; human rights violations; the economic collapse; and collapse of basics services. The 4 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees represent the largest migratory flow in the history of the region, officials say.

A United Nations analysis reported that at least 25% of the Venezuelan population was in need of some sort of humanitarian assistance. The OAS reported most Venezuelan refugees flee to Colombia (1.3 million), Peru (768,100) and Chile (288,200).

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