Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro fought back against the Peruvian’s statements on Tuesday that the Venezuelan dictator will “not be welcome” at the Summit of the Americas in April.
He has defied Peru’s calls to bar the president from their borders, exclaiming, “Do you fear me? You don’t want to see me in Lima? You’re going to see me. Because come rain or shine, by air, land, or sea, I will attend the Summit of the Americas.” He has particularly railed against the right-wing governments of Colombia, Peru, and Argentina, saying “they’re the most unpopular governments on the planet.”
He went further, saying that he would attend the April summit “by air, land, or sea.” Peru’s government defended itself, with Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz declaring that, “a head of state cannot come to a country without an invitation, so he cannot get to step on Peruvian soil without an invitation,” adding that, “neither the Peruvian soil, nor the Peruvian sea, nor the Peruvian air can be invaded by a foreign force.”
Maduro added that he had in fact received an invitation to the summit from the Peruvian president the day after the statements that he would not be welcome.
Venezuelans are fleeing the country by the thousands and the effects are causing a strain on neighbouring countries like Peru and Colombia. They are entering Colombia through the shared, porous border, and looking to major cities such as Bogotá for opportunities. “The first time I took my son to the supermarket in Bogotá, he honestly asked why there were so many different packages of toilet paper,” a Venezuelan immigrant explained to The Bogota Post. “He is used to seeing empty shelves. I didn’t want him to think that is normal.” As Venezuelan’s face food and medical shortages, they seek abundance in Colombia.
While many struggle to integrate into Colombian society, other vulnerable migrants fall prey to the recruiting tactics of the ELN, Colombia’s leftist guerrilla fighters. The recent attacks on police in Barranquilla were carried out in part by Venezuelans. “The number of Venezuelans who’ve participated in actions with the ELN has been growing,” said Luis Carlos Villegas, Colombian lawyer and economist.
With the presidential election approaching, the Venezuela issue will certainly be at the forefront of candidates and voters’ minds alike.