Ecuador begins shutting the door to Venezuelan migrants after a murder

Ecuador is drawing flak for shutting its doors on fleeing Venezuelan refugees and migrants.

According to Reuters:

QUITO (Reuters) – Ecuador is setting up new units to check Venezuelan immigrants' legal status and may tighten entry requirements after a Venezuelan man murdered his pregnant Ecuadorian girlfriend, President Lenin Moreno said on Sunday.

The killing in the northern city of Ibarra is the first reported murder perpetrated by a Venezuelan immigrant in Ecuador since hundreds of thousands have arrived there after fleeing an economic crisis in Venezuela.

"I have ordered the immediate setting up of units to control Venezuelan immigrants' legal status in the streets, in the workplace, and at the border," Moreno said on Twitter.

The Venezuelan reaction, even from non-communist, anti-dictatorship Venezuelans, was critical:

Here's a quick Microsoft translate that looks clear enough:

Really unforgivable.

Very serious that a head of state generates a xenophobic communiqué. I was a prosecutor for 17 years and hundreds of Ecuadorians were prosecuted for various crimes in Venezuela. We never generalized, nor persecuted our brethren in that country for what a few committed, rectify!

Both sides have some merit in their reactions.  Ecuador has taken in hundreds of thousands of fleeing Venezuelans without any proper identification and is getting overwhelmed.  A bad murder probably isn't the full issue here.  Communism with its attendant poverty has always corrupted a lot of people, and as any post-USSR Russian can tell you, a number of them become criminals.  They emigrate to other countries and continue criminality.  There are probably a lot more crimes being inflicted upon Ecuador than just this one bad murder being cited as a threat to peace.  And the Ecuadorean response seems to be mild compared to the popular response to a similar incident in Brazil, where angry locals ran all Venezuelans out of town after a shopkeeper was beaten and robbed by a Venezuelan migrant, then burned the Venezuelans' encampment and set up a wall of burning tires at the border to keep the migrants from coming back.

Obviously, these countries are stressed.

It's also true what the Venezuelan has to say – Venezuelans have taken in lots of Colombians and Ecuadoreans back when they were refugees, so there's a sense that maybe there should be some quid pro quo.  Back when I was in Colombia, I recall Colombians observing that once upon a time, they had been maids to the Venezuelans, but now the Venezuelans are maids to them.

So yes, some debts are owed.  But at the same time, nothing matches the scale of this mass movement of refugees, and that makes the price to these countries higher.  Part of me wants to say, "Tough it out.  You tolerated and succored Hugo Chávez, who created the situation.  Now you can live with the inevitable result."  But another part wants to say that all mass floods of refugees or migrants looking for something better in someone else's country are magnets for criminal elements.  We see this clearly with the caravans making their way up from Central America.  Democrats deny this as they seek to allow all migrants in without vetting and oppose a border wall in the name of capturing the Latino vote, but human nature is going to remain human nature, and the fact of the matter is, criminal migrants who get in without passports or vetting are always going to be creating victims of the locals.  The fact that the migrant movement is irregular and disorderly makes it an absolute certainty that criminals are going to get in and infiltrate the mass movements.  

Ecuador seems to know this and is shutting the door.  One can only hope this will, instead of provoking bitter feelings, put the spotlight where it belongs: on the regime in Caracas.  Maybe if Ecuador would couple this move with an absolute refusal to recognize the regime of Nicolás Maduro – as Brazil has done – will balance the act and make it less about hating on refugees and more on getting rid of the reason why there are refugees.  That would be a minimum move.  Better still, maybe Ecuador will start pushing for the regime change Venezuela most desperately needs and start committing resources, as well as supporting Venezuela's beleaguered democrats and egg on Venezuela's army to move.  That would get rid of the negative feelings among the Venezuelans.  Nobody wants to be a refugee unless there's absolutely nothing else he can do.  Slash that problem at its root, and the unvetted refugees will stop coming.

Image credit: Osmar Rodríguez via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0.