More than 1.2 million Venezuelans are now living in neighboring Colombia and that figure could hit 2 million by year’s end amid a brutal power struggle and a deep economic crisis.
Colombia Migration Director Christian Kruger on Thursday released the new figures and said they were likely to climb if Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro continues clinging to power.
“If the usurper, the dictator Maduro, stays in Venezuela — obviously these figures will continue to increase, and not just in our country,” he said.
The United Nations says more than 3.4 million people have left Venezuela in recent years amid hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages.
Colombia — which shares a long, porous border with Venezuela — has seen the largest influx, and is now home to 1,260,594 Venezuelans, the government said. But Peru, Ecuador, Chile and others have also been impacted.
Of the Venezuelans in Colombia, 770,975 are here legally and 489,619 are considered “irregular” because they overstayed permits or entered the country on unofficial trails and without documentation, the government said.
The entire region has been struggling to cope with what has evolved as one of the hemisphere’s largest migratory crises.
On Tuesday, Guaidó called for a military uprising that fell flat. But the country has been seized by street protests ever since, leaving at least four people dead and more than 100 injured, according to local media.