On Monday, March 8, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, extending temporary regular status and the ability to apply for work authorization to over 300,000 Venezuelans living in the United States. The TPS designation follows years of advocacy efforts calling for its implementation, stymied by partisan disagreements in the Senate and subsequent inaction by the Trump administration. The protected status for Venezuelan immigrants will last for a period of 18 months until September 2022, at which time it may be renewed depending on DHS’s assessment of in-country conditions.
As laid out in this analysis, TPS shares many benefits in common with the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) that former President Donald Trump announced in his last day in office, but advocates of TPS argue that it goes even further. Unlike DED, TPS is a temporary legal status rather than a temporary stay on deportation. TPS also has more basis in legal statute, is proven to be more durable across administrations, and is more framed as a humanitarian benefit.
The U.S. TPS designation is also significant when considering the regional context. The move from the Biden administration comes just one week after Colombian President Ivan Duque signed a decree providing a temporary regular status to Venezuelans in the country for a period of 10 years, so long as they participate in a registration process, during which they can obtain work authorization. This is an important announcement that, if implemented fully, could benefit the 54% of Venezuelans in Colombia that lack regular status. It remains to be seen whether measures to provide temporary status to Venezuelans in Colombia and the United States are the beginning of a broader regional trend to extend humanitarian protections to Venezuelan migrants and refugees.
- This week, Voice of America reports that a delegation from Norway arrived in Caracas to meet with members of the Maduro government and the opposition coalition led by Juan Guaidó. This marks the second such visit in 2021 after Norwegian government representatives visited Venezuela in late January to observe the country’s political and humanitarian situation.
- The Nominations Committee of the National Assembly elected in December’s widely-questioned vote revealed on Wednesday that 75 of the 114 individuals proposed to be chosen as rectors of the National Electoral Council (CNE) had passed the first stage of the approval process. Efecto Cocuyo has the full list, which includes several of 15 candidates to be considered for the five positions in the CNE. Negotiations on the final makeup of the CNE are ongoing, and a final roster is expected to be announced in early April.
- Last week, the U.K.’s Foreign Ministry denounced the Maduro government’s decision to expel EU Ambassador to Venezuela Isabel Brilhante as “unjustifiable and profoundly regrettable.” The International Contact Group on Venezuela similarly issued a statement rejecting the move as “contrary to the dialogue and respect that should prevail in international relations.” The declarations are the latest in the ongoing spar between the Maduro government and the EU after the EU issued a series of sanctions on top Maduro officials in late February.
- After it was announced that the U.S. would enact TPS for Venezuela, senior White House officials held a private press briefing in which they clarified the terms of the measure and what it signifies for U.S. policy on Venezuela moving forward. The officials expressed their support for a democratic and negotiated solution and stated that the U.S. is in “no rush” to lift sanctions on Venezuela, though they admitted to reviewing the unilateral U.S. sanctions so far since they “have not succeeded in achieving an electoral outcome in the country.”
- On March 9, following the U.S.’s TPS designation for Venezuela, former Special Envoy for Venezuela under the Trump administration Elliott Abrams published an op-ed in the Council on Foreign Relations blog reacting to the announcement. Abrams expressed his support for the TPS designation but criticized the Biden administration for its claims that the U.S. under the Trump administration failed to engage with the international community.
- This week, Juan Guaidó and other members of the opposition coalition held a virtual meeting with Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde to discuss the political and humanitarian situation in Venezuela. The Guaidó readout suggests that the two agreed to work jointly to achieve free and fair elections in the country, and to denounce the ongoing persecution of political opponents of Maduro.
- On March 10, WOLA joined 9 Brazilian organizations in sending a public letter to President Biden, urging the administration to press the Brazilian government to adhere to its international and domestic legal obligations to refugees and migrants. As they note, since 2019 the Brazilian government has issued a number of decrees that run against the principle of non-refoulement, the right to immediate access to the asylum application procedure and the principle of non-criminalization of migration.
- Last week, Canadian International Development Minister Karina Gould conducted a 2-day virtual visit to Colombia to explore the challenges facing the country stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis in Venezuela. In an interview on March 5, Gould warned that the Venezuelan exodus “could become the largest migration crisis in the world” by the end of the year. After Gould’s visit, the Canadian government committed $29.5 million to six development projects in Colombia intended to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and the Venezuelan displacement. Gould also announced that Canada will host the next international donors’ conference in coordination with the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration in June 2021 in solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees.
- Human rights activists are warning of a looming humanitarian crisis along Chile’s border with Bolivia as hundreds of Venezuelan migrants brave harsh altiplano conditions each day to reach shelters in Chile. The Tarapacá region of Chile reportedly saw over 2,000 cases of informal border crossings in January, in spite of pandemic-related border closures and the increasing militarization of the northern border.
- This week the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela presented an update to the Human Rights Council, expressing concern over continued repression, intimidation and use of force by the Venezuelan security forces. Since the publication of its September 2020 report, the Fact-Finding Mission identified 36 new cases of arbitrary detentions, and in 2021 alone detected over 200 killings committed by the police forces. The Fact-Finding Mission described the particularly harrowing case of January 7 to 9, in which the FAES police force carried out a deadly operation in the La Vega neighborhood of Caracas.
- On March 9, the Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA) and el Centro de Investigacion Gumilla published a joint study documenting at least 2,853 cases of extrajudicial killings by the Venezuelan police and military forces over the course of 2020.
- As a result of the decision by former President Trump to end exclusions in U.S. sanctions permitting the sale of Venezuelan crude in exchange for diesel fuel, the Miami Herald reports Venezuela’s fragile supply chain is beginning to experience shortages as the country’s diesel reserves run dry. Experts within the country have warned that shortages of diesel, which is necessary for bulk cargo transportation, could provoke a food security crisis.
- A recent article by The Guardian documents the impact of restrictive abortion laws in Venezuela, forcing women to risk arrest to seek illicit methods to terminate their unwanted pregnancies.
- After having been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year, COVID cases and hospitalizations appear to be rapidly rising in Venezuela after the carnaval holiday. On Wednesday Venezuela recorded 475 new cases, bringing the total number of reported cases to 143,796 and deaths to 1,407.
- On March 6, a shipment of 100,000 second doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Venezuela, a month after the first doses were sent. It is still unclear whether Russia will provide more vaccines in the future and on what timeline, despite Maduro’s claims to have purchased 10 million doses.