The returnees are part of the 400,000 Colombians who crossed borders to flee the war
By Santiago Torrado
Colombians deported from Venezuela carry their belongings through the Táchira River.
Exile is an extension of forced displacement. More than 400,000 Colombians crossed borders to flee the war in the first 12 years of this century, when the violence of an armed conflict that involved guerrillas, paramilitaries and state forces intensified. Although today sounds paradoxical, many of them found refuge in neighboring Venezuela, which was for decades a host country, and repeated their tragedy when they were expelled by the government of Nicolás Maduro.
The National Center of Historical Memory (CNMH) released this Tuesday in the border city of Cúcuta the report “Colombian Exile: Traces of the armed conflict beyond the borders”, an X-ray that in coming days the entity will also present in Quito, City of Panama and Bogotá. The exhaustive study stops, in addition to chapters dedicated to Ecuador and Panama, in the episode of the deportees of 2015, the beginning of the border crisis between Colombia and Venezuela that in many ways continues until today.
The deep social and economic crisis in Venezuela, together with the peace agreement signed in 2016 by the Colombian Government and the FARC, have reversed the historic trend of migration between two countries that share more than 2,200 kilometers of border. Today it is estimated that there are about one million Venezuelans in Colombia, to which are added more than 300,000 returnees. But before, it was the Colombians who emigrated en masse to the “Saudi Venezuela” that enjoyed the oil bonanza of the 70s, or those that fled from the 90s of the horrors of an armed conflict that overflowed the borders.
Most of these exiles suffered beforehand from internal displacement, such as Ana Teresa Castillo, a community leader who was displaced by guerrillas and paramilitaries five times before settling in 2006 in Venezuela. There he bought a house in San Antonio, on the other side of the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, which was later knocked down. “There was abundance of food, of market, it was the perfect life, there were not as many problems as today,” he recalls. “People treated me very well, but the deportation was very hard. Women were told they were prostitutes, men who were paramilitaries. ” It did not help that she explained that she was a refugee.
Deportations by Maduro
The forced return from Venezuela is a part of the history of Colombian exiles. The relations of solidarity and hospitality between exiles grew hand in hand with the invasion neighborhoods that settled on the other side of the border.
For the majority, “the symbol of the new life was the house they had built after months of work with improvised materials such as canvas, block, zinc tiles and recycled wood,” says the CNMH. nor to enter Venezuelan territory for fear of being deported (I).
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