By Andres Fernandez
Recent statements made by the Colombian ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Alejandro Ordóñez, related to the Venezuelan migratory crisis have generated controversy both within the organization and in the government of Iván Duque. Although Colombia has granted the most guarantees to migrants in the region, the ambassador’s comments have poured salt on Venezuela’s wounds. They have also prompted the Duque administration to request that Ordóñez make an official apology.
What did Ordoñez say?
The reason for the controversy stemmed from Ordóñez’s statements in which he suggested that the Venezuelan exodus was part of a strategy by the Nicolás Maduro regime to “propagate 21st century socialism in Latin America.”
Alejandro Ordóñez (embajador de Colombia en la OEA) dijo hoy en la OEA que la “migración” de Venezuela es “parte de la estrategia” para “irradiar en la región el socialismo del Siglo XXI”
No se puede creer.
— José Miguel Vivanco (@JMVivancoHRW) May 2, 2019
“The dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro…is part of a global agenda to spread the socialism of the 21st century in the region. For this, migration and transcontinental alliances are part of the strategy to achieve that purpose, and they are calculating in their approach. Make no mistake. We are facing a coldly calculated plan to destabilize the region by exercising territorial control. This constitutes the most serious risk to hemispheric security,” he told the OAS.
The Foreign Minister of Colombia, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, indicated that the apology that they expect from Ordóñez is part of a “reminder” of the duties that the Colombian diplomatic corps has. Additionally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia made the clarification in a video that recalled the migration policy of the Colombian government has acted in favor of Colombian migrants, and against the Chavista dictatorship.
— Cancillería Colombia (@CancilleriaCol) May 3, 2019
“I spoke personally with Ambassador Ordóñez to point out that such actions are unacceptable to the Government,” the foreign minister told W Radio.
Currently, there are 1.2 million Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, according to official data from Migración Colombia, but it is widely believed that the actual figure is greater.
“The migration crisis is being used politically”
The PanAm Post spoke with Ronald Rodríguez, a political scientist and researcher at the Observatory of Venezuela at the Universidad del Rosario, about the statements made by Ambassador Ordóñez in the context of immigration.
He expects that in Colombia, soon, political actors will begin to exploit the mass exodus from Venezuela.
“Migration issues have been exploited in Europe, the United States and clearly Colombia with the current migratory crisis that we are seeing today. Recall that Mr. Ordóñez has a strong influence in the department of Santander. Together with the mayor of Bucaramanga, they have spoken out against the migratory crisis because they have felt the pressure of many of those who are entering via the border region in Cúcuta (Norte de Santander).”
He added that this has caused politicians in this region to try to move migrants to other areas. “Ordóñez speaks to an electoral body that is already beginning to feel the fatigue from receiving Venezuelans; they believe that there are a number of resources available for migrants, but that those resources have not been distributed.”
Rodriguez recalled that until now it had been the left in Colombia who had used the migratory phenomenon as a political excuse.
“For example, in 2018 Petro wrote some tweets in which he used a discourse of xenophobic logic, that contrasts the needs of Colombians with that of Venezuelans. At the time of humanitarian aid, he even published that the food rotted in Cúcuta.”
It is precisely the Colombian left that has denied that the main cause of the exodus of more than three million Venezuelans is due to the so-called “Socialism of the 21st Century.” Instead they argue that the reason for the massive migration is caused by multiple factors . Among them oil, which is the main argument used by Petro, an long-time ally of Chavismo.
This year Colombia is holding regional and local elections, which will be decisive for President Duque, because it could help strengthen his party, the Democratic Center, or the left of this country, which currently appears ascendant in Bogotá . It is precisely issues like the Venezuelan migratory crisis that will be the “hot-button issues” used by different political parties to strengthen their campaigns. And in regions such as Cundinamarca, Norte de Santander and Santander, this will be a determining argument.