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Venezuelans cross the International Simon Bolivar bridge into Colombia Venezuelans cross the International Simon Bolivar bridge into Colombia, Feb. 21, 2018 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Duque’s Bold Gesture for Venezuelan Refugees Could Be Politically Costly

Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021

It’s not often that a large refugee population is given unexpected reason to feel overjoyed. But that’s what happened last week in Colombia, when President Ivan Duque, standing alongside United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, announced that he would allow all Venezuelans living in the country as of Jan. 31 to obtain residency permits for 10 years. Their official status will grant them full rights to work, study, receive health care and enjoy other benefits available to Colombian citizens.

The news came as a surprise, particularly because just a few weeks ago Duque had said undocumented Venezuelans would not be included in Colombia’s planned coronavirus vaccination rollout. That sparked sharp criticism, not just for being inhumane, but also for the obvious reason that the pandemic will not end if large segments of the population, regardless of legal status, are not inoculated. ...

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