Colombia’s compassion is vital to Venezuela’s future

The country’s generosity to Venezuelan refugees needs to be matched by foreign donors. Such aid gives hope to Venezuelans to resist their brutal regime.

AP
Volunteers prepare free lunches for Venezuelan migrants in La Parada, Colombia, Feb. 11, 2019.

If there were an annual award for mass generosity – beyond mere money – surely Colombia would win it. By the end of this year, the South American nation of 49 million is expected to have taken in more than 2 million refugees from Venezuela, whose economy is teetering on collapse, largely from a dictator’s mismanagement.

In contrast, Colombia is a model of the freedoms that can engender mass charity – even as it struggles with a per capita income of less than $8,000 and high unemployment.

The latest example of Colombia’s kindness: President Iván Duque gave citizenship to 24,000 Colombian-born babies of Venezuelan parents as well as to those born over the next two years. He also used the moment to warn against rising concerns by some politicians about the refugee influx.

“For those who want to make from xenophobia a political path, we adopt the path of brotherhood,” Mr. Duque said in a televised address. “For those who want to outcast or discriminate against migrants, we stand up today ... to say that we are going to take them in and we are going to support them during difficult times.”

Largely on its own peso, Colombia has integrated many refugees into schools and the economy. Sharing the same language helps as does some foreign aid, mainly from the United States. Yet Colombians also have a stronger-than-usual empathy toward the dispossessed. They endured a half-century of civil war until a peace deal in 2016. At many times during the war Venezuela took in fleeing Colombians. Compassion now begets compassion.

That is, at least between those two nations. Colombia is in need of far more foreign assistance. The United Nations has asked the international community for $738 million to aid Colombia and other regional nations coping with the refugee flow. Only about a quarter of the request has been filled. Currently, foreign assistance for Venezuelan refugees is about 13% of that provided to Syrian refugees.

Helping Colombia is a way to reinforce its bigheartedness and its counterexample to the tragedy of governance in Venezuela under ruler Nicolás Maduro. As his regime steadily collapses under the weight of its own mistakes, the rest of the world can also prepare to rebuild Venezuela, which would allow its refugees to return home. This aid planning will give hope to Venezuelans still in the country, as well as a reason for them to resist the regime. Assisting Colombia’s generosity is a big assist for a peaceful, democratic Venezuela.

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