Another body of a Colombian migrant – now the eleventh – was recently found along the border region of Venezuela. The victim had been playing pick-up soccer when kidnapped two weeks ago.
The Colombian and Venezuelan governments have each traded accusations related to the incident, leading to increased tensions.
Who would massacre these Colombians, and to what end? It may be an extreme sign of anti-immigrant sentiment within Venezuela; Colombians make up its largest foreign-born group and often compete for jobs while being labeled with negative stereotypes. Another more likely possibility is that Colombian guerrillas, such as the ELN and FARC, crossed the border in order to kill suspected paramilitary adversaries.
The region between Venezuela and Colombia is relatively porous, allowing the movement of migrants as well as armed groups. Venezuela’s border-states host more than 200,000 persons who are forcibly displaced due to the ongoing civil conflict in Colombia, in addition to tens of thousands of others who seek better economic opportunities. Meanwhile, Bogotá has presented evidence that the government in Caracas allows Colombian guerillas to use its territory for sanctuary.
Whether or not the intent of the murders was to send a message or settle an old score, the Colombian migrant community must live with a deepened sense of their own vulnerability. They often live on the margins, struggling to find adequate housing or jobs. Many are also without legal documentation, and open to intimidation and abuse from local authorities. At the same time, Venezuela’s murder rate has unfortunately skyrocketed within the past decade, and few perpetrators are ever brought to justice. Under these circumstances one can only hope that no additional killings take place.
More information on the latest victim can be found here.