Peru and Venezuela agree to repatriate 42,000 Venezuelans who would like to come back to their home country. The current refugee crisis is the world’s second worst. Peru’s position towards Venezuela also created confusion in a government formed recently. It was enhanced by the current discussions between Maduro’s regime and opposition parties.
On September 21, Venezuela’s disputed President Nicolás Maduro announced a coordination with Peru to repatriate 42,000 Venezuelans to their home country.
This is part of Venezuela’s plan “Vuelta a la Patria“, a program meant support migrants who would like to return to Venezuela. Venezuela refers to them as migrants instead of refugees. Refugees are “people outside their country of origin because of feared persecution, conflict, violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order“.
There are currently 5.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide, the second largest forced human migration in the world after the one caused by the Syrian civil war.
Peru is the second country hosting Venezuelan refugees behind Colombia.
To date, about 25,000 Venezuelans have returned to their country since the beginning of the plan. Caracas mentioned it would provide the planes and seek support of the UNHCR.
In June 2021, the international community, in collaboration with the UNHCR, pledged to provide US $1.5 billion for helping the Venezuelan refugees. Then, Venezuela’s dictatorship called it a “political propaganda operation“.
“Take your compatriots who came to commit crimes”
The announcement comes after discussions with Pedro Castillo, the President of Peru elected after a long imbroglio around votes, in Mexico during the 6th Summit of the CELAC, an intergovernmental forum including thirty-three countries from Latin America and the Caribbeans.
During the discussions, Nicolás Maduro also expressed his interest in restarting trade, buying food from Peru for their food distribution program for low-income families, as well as industrial products.
But the position of Peru regarding the Venezuelan regime has been difficult to read since Pedro Castillo’s election in July.
Pedro Castillo, a left-wing politician, spoke of Venezuela as a democracy and considered they had to solve their problems internally. But he also said that there was “no chavismo” in Peru, referring to the legacy of Hugo Chavez, pursued by Maduro.
In April, during his presidential campaign, the newly-elected president of Peru wanted Maduro to “come and take back his compatriots who came to commit crimes“.
While discussions during CELAC between the two countries were not officially reported, the vice minister of Foreign Affairs, Luis Enrique Chávez, stressed that Peru didn’t officially recognize any legitimate authority in Venezuela. He referred to the position Peru jointly stated last January with the Lima Group, a consortium of American countries formed in Peru’s capital meant to overcome the institutional crisis in Venezuela.
President Castillo has a “respect for self-determination”
However, the prime minister Guido Bellido Ugarte responded that the vice minister’s claim was “not the government’s position”. And he revealed the meeting between President Castillo and “President Nicolás Maduro to solve the migration crisis“.
The minister of Interior joined the vice minister’s position. However, on the same day of Venezuela’s announcement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru itself issued an official statement explaining the country never broke diplomatic relations with Venezuela.
“These relationships have been maintained during past administrations and are currently at the consular level.”
The prime minister reiterated that the government had to remain coherent with the recent positions of the President during his electoral campaign, who had “an orientation of respect for sovereignty and self-determination of countries”.
Discussions in Venezuela for free and democratic elections
This confusion is enhanced as Venezuela’s government and opposition parties started discussions to end the crisis through democratic processes since August.
The statement further “welcomed the progress made […] in order to normalize [Venezuela] political life through the calling of fair, free and democratic elections, and the end of the economic sanctions that affect the Venezuelan people.”
Questions about the usefulness or the existence of the Lima Group have been put on the table. Argentina left it in March; Mexico and Bolivia recognized Venezuela’s current regime.
Colombia President, Iván Duque, a strong opponent of Maduro’s regime, remained skeptical regarding the ongoing discussion. Although he valued the “efforts made by the interim government to sit down with the dictatorship”, he stressed that the only outcome validating this process would be “free and transparent” presidential elections.