Monday, September 20, 2021

Venezuelans camp out in Bogota, hoping for a better future

By Mauricio Dueñas and Gonzalo D. Loeda

Bogota, Sep 7 (EFE).- The Bogota bus terminal is a mass of travelers, vehicles and passengers saying farewell amid smiles and tears, hopes and dreams – notably the dreams of the more than 100 Venezuelans camped out in a park near the station hoping for a better future.

Between 120 and 140 Venezuelans, including five babies, are camping some 100 meters (100 yards) from the station in Salitre on the west side of Bogota, sheltered from the cold of the Colombian capital while deciding on their next move.

What looks like a very motley crew has settled on the lawn of the park they have renamed “The Woods” under the shelter of canvas and plastic sheets where they try ot eat, sleep and pass the hours. The more fortunate have tents.

And yet they consider themselves lucky: “They treated me spectacularly in Bogota…Here nobody has told us to leave, we’ve had food and clothing…I don’t know how long I went in Venezuela without eating a piece of chicken or a sardine,” Marleny Marquez, 38, told EFE.

“I’ve been here a week and I’ve gained a kilo (more than 2 lbs.). There (in Venezuela) I lost about 10 kilos (22 lbs.),” Marquez said.

While spending their time in “The Woods,” they receive aid from the locals and a group of nuns that bring them food and clothes to deal with the freezing Bogota temperatures, which at this time of year hover around 10 degrees C (14 degrees F) for most of the day.

This solidarity, they said, allows them to live better than in their native Venezuela, where getting food is a fantasy.

The odyssey of many of them began when they left their country and, with no money in their pockets, tried to find a new life on the way to Bogota.

They rambled hundreds of kilometers (miles) on foot and now dream of making the next stretch by bus or by finding work in Colombia that will allow them to support and send aid to their families.

In Colombia, where close to a million Venezuelans have settled, their possibilities have shrunk after Peru closed its border to Venezuelans whose passports have expired and with the growing fear that Ecuador might do the same.