The lateral and central pedestrian crossings of the Rumichaca international bridge, on the border with Colombia, are crowded with Venezuelan citizens who began to arrive by the hundreds on the weekend after the rumor that Iván Duque, the new president of Colombia, would close the borders of his country, once taken office.
“We began to hear that news at the end of July, but as the hours passed that information was gaining strength. That’s why I decided to leave Maracaibo, my hometown, and travel with my two girls to Lima. There my husband is waiting for us, “said Karina Uribe.
On the night of Monday the 6th, the Venezuelan woman lined up at the binational pass. She had her turn number 3,827 to have her passport stamped at the Migration offices in Ecuador. Her daughters, aged 9 and 12, were happy with each step their mother took in the middle of the long line.
According to Guillermo Clerque, an Ecuadorian currency trader who has worked in Rumichaca for 20 years, there has never been an agglomeration of foreigners of such magnitude at the border crossing.
“It was already common to see 4,000 or 5,000 Venezuelans leaving Colombia and entering Ecuador. We started seeing this phenomenon since 2016. But now I think the number of people who are being dammed here has tripled, “he said.
In the Ecuadorian offices of Migration there was secrecy about the rebound of foreigners. His officials avoided dialogue with the press and said that all the information will be provided by the Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, every minute they arrived at Ipiales buses full of Venezuelans coming from Cúcuta, a Colombian city bordering Venezuela. Many, like the Venezuelan Pedro Díaz, a native of the state of Carabobo, arrived without money at the Colombian-Ecuadorian border.
He was fed with biscuits and water that he carried in his backpack, while he lined up to leave Colombia. “We are many who travel without money. That does not matter now, the question is to flee from Venezuela, where the money you can have is no longer worth anything and there is nothing to buy either. The important thing is to enter Ecuador legally. Once there, I will try to get money to get to Quito, if not among some compatriots we plan to walk, “said the migrant.
Between Tulcán and Quito there are about 260 kilometers. And in the Pan-American route that joins these two cities, it is already common to observe groups of Venezuelans making this journey and sleeping in fuel stations.
In Rumichaca, for those who decide to undertake a long journey on foot, low temperatures and lack of food are the main problem. For this reason, some private institutions of Carchi deliver humanitarian aid to travelers.
‘15% stays in country’
Interior Minister Mauro Toscanini said that 15% of Venezuelans who enter the country stay to live in Ecuadorian territory. He maintained that the rest continues towards Peru and Chile.
Today, according to Toscanini, about 8,000 Venezuelans enter the country every day, which according to Rumichaca merchants is three times the exodus in previous seasons. (I)