Jhon González’s original plan was to visit his aunt in Quito. He wanted to stay there for a few days and then continue to Lima, the Peruvian capital, where his brother is waiting for him, a job and the desire for a better life, far from his native Venezuela.
His projects vanished when crossing the International Bridge of Rumichaca, in Carchi. There he was told that a compatriot killed Diana Carolina. Then he watched the videos of taxi drivers and mobs hitting people from Venezuela. Then he felt fear.
His aunt warned him by phone that it was best to cross the country as quickly as possible. “I thought that when I arrived I would find people angry and that they could hit me, but until now everything has been quiet.” But Jhon bought a direct bus ticket to Huaquillas, on the southern border. “I do not want to risk it. They say that these brigades can take us. “
He refers to the groups to control the legal situation of Venezuelans in the streets, announced by President Lenin Moreno. Those brigades have not yet been activated in Tulcán, but Venezuelans say they experience fear walking the streets of the city.
“People look at us ugly,” says Isandry Tobar, 19 years old. She cannot hold back the tears when she remembers how her journey has been. The young woman travels with her daughter Sofía, 2 years old; her sister Sinay, 11; her cousin Genesis Terán, 20, and her cousin’s baby of a year and a half. “If they want to hurt us we cannot run, because we are with the children …”. Her plan is to cross Ecuador to reach Peru, but Isandry says that in Colombia they stole her documents and her belongings. “We only have the clothes we have and a suitcase”; she cried again she also wears shoes, with the soles detached, product of the 11 days she has been walking.
The Ecuadorian Edison Casa works in the Tulcán bus terminal. He is in charge of selling the tickets. He says that since the crime of Diana the influx of Venezuelans went down and that “the buses that go to Ibarra and Quito go empty.”
This Tuesday, January 22, 2019, there were few Venezuelans in the terminal and most preferred to move to cities on the coast, such as Portoviejo or Guayaquil, or go directly to the southern border.
Freddy Alberto Justo, 37, watched the video of Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner’s press conference on Monday, when he was still on his way to Ecuador. He says that the part that scared him the most was when the official warned that he was going to request the legal past apostille to allow entry. “Not only that I do not have the paper, but I was charged with criminal charges,” says Freddy, a photojournalist.
He confesses that shortly before arriving in Ecuador he was released from prison. He was detained for 15 days after participating, in 2018, in a protest against the Nicolás Maduro regime. The charges against him are to attack public order, obstruction of roads, possession of explosive and incendiary material and treason.
“The trial is active in my country, but I came because I was not going to wait for them to put me in jail again. There, any opponent is an enemy. “
Until this Tuesday, in Migration of the international bridge the presentation of the judicial pass was not yet required. The only thing the officials reported was that “there is nothing in writing.” Groups of Venezuelans prefer to spend the night around the Migration offices. Regardless of the cold of up to 6 degrees, the greatest fear is to move towards Tulcán, Ibarra, Quito or another nearby city.
Leibys Martínez, 29, has spent two days in Rumichaca sleeping in tents with other compatriots. He has lived in Guaranda for six months, but returned to the border to meet his wife and two daughters again. His purpose is to take his family to Guaranda, where he works as a bricklayer and earns USD 20 a day. But he says he’ll wait until Thursday before traveling. “We just have to wait for this bad moment to pass.”
The little presence of Venezuelans in Tulcán is also felt in Casa Hogar Jesús del Migrante. The refuge is managed by the Ecuadorian Yolanda Montenegro. She says that before the crime of Diana, about 130 people arrived daily to her house, to whom she gave them a bed, a roof and lent them the kitchen so that they could prepare their food.
But between Sunday and Monday they have arrived only 30. The door of the Casa Hogar is dented and the windows were broken. Yolanda says that after Diana’s crime, people came knocking on her door and demanding that she evict the Venezuelans. “It was terrible, frightening, especially for the children who were crying. We were all scared. The children did not want to sleep during the whole dawn, it was distressing. “
Before the incidents, the foreigners lined up outside their house to enter and get a bed. Now Yolanda notices that the few who arrive knock on the door and nervously beg her to open soon. “It is wrong for Ecuadorians to be angry against all Venezuelans who come to our country; there are good and bad people everywhere. “
The woman also remembers that Jordi Rafael, who stabbed Diana, stayed at home for three days. “He looked like a quiet boy, but I always say that you cannot pay for all of them.” (I)