Nicolás Maduro has belittled the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing across the Andes as gullible “slaves and beggars” duped into scrubbing foreign toilets by enemies of the Bolivarian revolution.
The United Nations said 2.3 million people, more than 7% of Venezuela’spopulation, have left the country since 2015, with most heading to Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Half a million have arrived this year in Ecuador alone.
But when Daniel Luquez, an unemployed carpenter, set off from his home in the city of Guanare in July he was not, as Venezuela’s president recently scoffed, chasing “the honeys” of a life abroad. He was fighting for his daughter’s life.
Two-year-old Jolismar was diagnosed with thoracic cancer last year after doctors found a small lump near her heart. On Tuesday, and after an arduous three-week journey across Colombia, her father arrived in the Ecuadorian border town of Tulcán determined to earn the money to support his ailing daughter as she undergoes chemotherapy back in their rapidly unravelling nation.
“Getting here was tough, but I have to battle for my family,” said Luquez, 27, who hitchhiked and hobbled almost 1,200 miles to Ecuador. Six years ago his left leg was amputated as a result of a car crash.
Luquez is one of the more than 500,000 Venezuelans who have crossed into northern Ecuador via Colombia this year as his country’s migration crisis escalates. Regional governments struggle to cope with the humanitarian and political fallout from one of the largest mass migrations in Latin American history.