Ecuador tightens rules for Venezuelans after brutal murder
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Venezuelans who want to enter Ecuador will now have to present an official document showing any brushes with the law, the government announced Monday, two days after the killing of a 22-year-old woman sparked a wave of unrest against migrants.
The pregnant woman was slain by her Venezuelan boyfriend in an incident witnessed by dozens of people and captured on video that was shared on social media.
“We should distinguish between those Venezuelans fleeing the government of Nicolas Maduro and others who are taking advantage of the situation to commit crimes,” Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner said in announcing the new regulation.
It was unclear how the estimated 2,700 Venezuelan migrants who enter Ecuador through the Colombia border each day would obtain the document, as even basic records like a passport have become increasingly difficult to obtain in their home country.
Sonnenholzer said the criminal record requirement is needed because of the lack of cooperation from Venezuelan authorities in providing information on migrants.
The United Nations estimates at least 221,000 Venezuelans are now residing in this small South American nation, which has also become a point of transit for hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants who are trying to reach Peru.
An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled their nation’s economic and humanitarian crisis since 2015 in one of the world’s largest mass migrations on the planet today. They are arriving predominantly in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, where tensions have risen over the sudden influx of a high-needs population.
The killing Saturday night took place in the northern Ecuadorian city of Ibarra, where a Venezuelan man held his pregnant girlfriend at knifepoint on a street for more than an hour as police officers with shields and onlookers watched in horror. The man then stabbed the woman several times in the chest.
Outraged residents began hunting for Venezuelan migrants in the community the following day, forcing them out of hostels and homes where they rent rooms, throwing rocks at them and setting their belongings on fire.
“Get out Venezuelans!” crowds of people chanted.
The violent response stirred fears that xenophobia could be mounting and drew condemnation from rights groups and Venezuelan officials.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accused Ecuador’s government of making an “absurd correlation” between Saturday’s slaying and the larger Venezuelan population. He said the government would hold Ecuador responsible for any harm to its citizens.
“Nationality isn’t a criteria for criminalization,” Arreaza said.
Amnesty International condemned the new entry requirement. It urged Ecuador’s government to implement policies to prevent femicides, saying that “violence against women and girls is not a matter of nationality or migratory flows.”
The “government has the responsibility to protect people’s rights to seek asylum and international protection,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, the group’s Americas director.