Friday, September 18, 2020

Ecuador's Treatment of Venezuelan Migrants

Beyers, Christiaan., & Esteban Nicholls (2020). "Government through Inaction: The Venezuelan Migratory Crisis in Ecuador." Journal of Latin American Studies, 52(3), 633-657.

Abstract (gated):
This article analyses strategies for channelling a migrant population out of a country by indirect means. Specifically, we examine the response of the Ecuadorean state to the influx of Venezuelan newcomers since 2015. We argue that this response has been characterised by inaction, rooted not in policy failures or bad governance, but rather in a strategic governmental rationality. We show how migrants are ‘herded’ out of the country as a result of a form of indirect government that works differently from other ‘anti-immigrant’ policies like forced deportations or incarceration at the border, and yet produces similar outcomes.

I found this to be originally and fascinating. The foundation of this inaction policy is Lenín Moreno:

The strategic ‘inaction’ that we uncovered during our research is explained in part by the political weakness of the Moreno regime, which, during its first three years in power, resulted in a please-all stance towards sensitive political issues such as the Venezuelan question. 

And its implementation (if inaction can be labeled as such) is pretty twisted.

Our interviews with Venezuelans in Quito confirmed that many would prefer to remain in Ecuador. The majority who do stay do so because they have family, friends or a business partner in Ecuador. By contrast, the majority of Venezuelans who leave do so because of what is generally described as an impossible-to-comply-with series of legal requirements and administrative steps, and a general sense that the government is indifferent to their struggles. These subject dispositions are in themselves concrete effects of the governmentality of inaction. 

What they describe is a bureaucratic dystopia, where red tape becomes the means for what in the U.S. Mitt Romney once famously labeled "self-deportation." A critical difference from the U.S., however is that the public face of the government is benign. Ecuador "welcomes" Venezuelan migrants but makes it too much of a paperwork hassle to stay. Sorry, just following the rules.

The vice-minister goes on to acknowledge that, while Venezuelans ‘often arrive only with what they have on them’, the government cannot ‘exempt citizens entering the country from any requirements’, and effectively concludes that it is doing all it can towards some eventual resolution of the problem.

The system is actually specifically intended not to work. Migrants cannot get licenses to do any work and eventually give up. Word of the difficulties go back to Venezuela, and so new migrants come primed not to stay. They conclude by suggesting that this is part of an overall Moreno problem of inaction.


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