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Venezuela may become the next Syria: How mainstream media mistakenly writes about Colombia

Venezuela may become the next Syria: How mainstream media mistakenly writes about Colombia.

The prolonged economic crisis in Venezuela is triggering citizens to leave their own country. Economists feared that the once oil-rich nation might become the Syria of Latin America in regards to the refugee crisis.

According to Dany Bahar from the Brookings Institution, civil war isn’t the driving factor behind Venezuelans seeking refuge in neighbouring states such as Brazil and Colombia.

“The next refugee crisis is not being driven by a violent war but by a socioeconomic disaster of magnitudes hardly seen before,” said the expert in his Monday note, as quoted by CNBC.

Ian Bremmer from the Eurasia Group tweeted on Feb. 14 that the numbers of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia have reached 550,000. Colombia’s reputed magazine Semana reported that there were one million Venezuelans in the country.

Bahar cited others’ estimates that around four million Venezuelans have sought better living in the past two decades, a figure similar to data from the United Nations stating there are approximately 5.5 million Syrian refugees.

Data from the Council on Foreign Relations showed that around 500,000 Venezuelans have fled the country since 2016. In that year, 92 percent of Venezuelans could no longer afford to buy food for their families.

In 2016, oil prices plunged to the lowest value in the last 12, New York Times reported. Venezuela once relied heavily on oil prices, with the oil sector contributing to 50 percent of the country’s GDP, with the agriculture segment contributing only 3 percent.

What’s media getting wrong with Colombia?

The Wall Street Journal report on Feb. 13 compared Colombia to the Balkans, Greece, and Italy in 2015, when the migrant crisis reached its peak. The author wrote that the influx of Venezuelans to Colombia prompted government officials to fly to Turkey to seek advice on handling mass amounts of refugees.

The report missed two crucial points: first, that Colombia has 7 million displaced people internally. The country is the Latin American nation with the highest numbers of refugees living outside of its border (300,000) in Equador and Venezuela, as the UNHRC reported in mid-2016.

Secondly, Colombia and Venezuela share a very long border. Greece and Italy do not border with Syria. The article failed to discuss states actually bordering Syria. Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey collectively sheltered around 4.4 million of Syrian refugees in 2016, with Turkey alone absorbing 3 million.

Colombia has a poor track record of human rights violations. Even the White House administration acknowledged that right-wing paramilitaries killed hundreds of thousands of Colombians, including indigenous people. Around 3,000 Colombian civilians were killed by the military from 2002 to 2008, and the conflict has yet to end as 170 leftist politicians were murdered in 2017.

Now, Colombia is asking for international help to deal with the influx of Venezuelan refugees. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said aid was urgently needed from the international community.






Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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