Venezuelan migrant killed in mob attack in Colombia capital
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A group of Venezuelan migrants living in Colombia’s capital says their homes were ransacked by a mob that beat one of their friends to death while shouting slurs against foreigners.
The attack occurred last week after rumors emerged on social media that Venezuelans living in the crime-ridden slums overlooking southern Bogota were kidnapping children.
Cellphone videos taken during the attack show dozens of angry people pelting a bleeding man with rocks and kicking him as he lies on the ground. Police intervene and whisk the man off on a motorcycle.
Police said the man, who had been living in Colombia for three months, died in the hospital.
Residents of the Acapulco neighborhood where the attack took place were loath to discuss the incident.
But survivors of the attack said Tuesday that the mob also targeted the homes of other Venezuelan migrants who lived nearby, apparently trying to run them out of the neighborhood.
“They broke our windows and stole our furniture,” said Jason Zabala, a Venezuelan coffee vendor who survived the attack by hiding in a neighbor’s home.
Zabala, 25, is now sleeping with a group of 10 migrants outside a hospital in Ciudad Bolivar and said he plans to return to Venezuela as soon as his brother, who was stabbed four times, is released from the hospital. He said he has no money for a bus ticket and has been begging for food for the past few days.
“We might have to return to Venezuela by foot, and we might go hungry once we get there,” Zabala said. “But at least we will not be humiliated anymore.”
Police said they are investigating the incident, in which six police officers were also injured.
Bogota’s police chief said claims of Venezuelans stealing children were baseless.
More than 1.9 million people have left Venezuela over the past five years to escape an economic crisis marked by food shortages and inflation soon expected to surpass 1 million percent.
Many of the migrants have ended up in Colombia, which has given temporary residence permits to more than a half million Venezuelans over the past two years.
But as Venezuelans continue to stream into Colombia and other South American countries, discrimination is on the rise. Brazilian troops were deployed in August to protect migrants after a mob burned down their tent city.
Associated Press writer Cesar Garcia contributed to this report.